art of resistance, Iran

Five For Friday: 90’s Iranian Cinema.

If you haven’t discovered marvelous Iranian cinema yet, you better get to it! To offer you a good start, here are five Iranian films from the 90’s. 90’s were good times for Iranian cinema – providing us with so many gems, so much diversity and originality.

1. The Wind Will Carry Us by Abbas Kiarostami

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The film’s title is a reference to a poem written by the great Forough Farrokhzad  – which is already a promising start. The story follows a city engineer Behzad (with two other men) who comes to a rural village in Iran to keep vigil for a dying relative.

We see him trying to fit in with the local community and witness the way he changes his own attitudes with time. The main theme here is life and death, and approach to it is highly poetic. The beauty of the landscapes is captivating and serves the film so well. Great piece of art by Kiarostami – one to take in slowly, to dissolve into.

2. The Color of Paradise by Majid Majidi

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When I see a film is made by Majid Majidi, I know I am gonna go through falling in love and having my heart broken in 90 minutes. But I also know my heartache will not be a bitter one – yes, it will hurt, but it’s nice to be hurt by such beauty, nice to know you’ve been able to love the way you love(d). It was the same with this film.

This is a story about Mohammad, boy at Tehran’s institute for the blind, who waits for his dad to pick him up for summer vacation. His father finally comes and takes him to their village where his sisters and granny await. Mohammad adores nature and longs for village life with his family, but his father is ashamed of him and doesn’t want him around. Over granny’s objections, dad apprentices Mohammad far from home to a blind carpenter. This is heartwarming, heartwrenching, beautiful film.

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3. The Apple by Samira Makhmalbaf

the-apple-movie-poster-1998-1020202597This is a true documentary/drama gem. The story goes like this – after twelve years of imprisonment by their own parents, two sisters are finally released by social workers to face the outside world for the first time (it is a true story, by the way). Neighbors were signing a petition for social workers to investigate a home where their blind mother and out-of-work father have locked up two girls. The parents claim they were only protecting their children but the papers tell stories of children chained up and kept like animals.

The film crew follows the parents and children as they come to terms with the new, enforced freedom. Everything about this film is so subtle and so vibrant at the same time – it doesn’t punch you in the face with the moral, it allows you to come to it on your own. Beautiful and moving – watch it.

4. Salaam Cinema by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

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It was such a joy watching this. The director Mohsen Makhmalbaf put up an advertisement in the papers calling for an open casting for his next movie. However, when thousands of people showed up, he decided to make a film about the casting and the screen tests of the would-be actors.

Some of those would-be actors are almost crazy, some are utterly shy, some are there for different reasons (like getting out of the country), and some just might be great for acting. Makhmalbaf asks them all why they came and insists that they act and show what they can do. He even demands of them to laugh or cry within 10 seconds because that’s what actors can do or should be able to do. Funny, interesting, moving – this is just a great little film!

5. The Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami

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Another slow, beautiful, contemplating life and death film by Kiarostami. It is a story of a man (Mr. Badii) who drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. Nobody wants to help him – until he crosses paths with an old Turkish taxidermist, who has a sick son (needs the money) and has previously attempted suicide himself, so he agrees to assist Badii.

We never find out Badii’s motifs for suicide, no explanation whatsoever is offered. Many critics have disliked that fact, but I think that is what makes this a good story. I was still able to relate to Badii and feel his sorrow. It shows how we must take such conditions seriously – if we were to find out his reasons, we might judge him, we might say “oh, c’mon, that’s not a good reason to kill yourself”. That is wrong and wouldn’t change the way he feels. And the way he feels is illustrated in the wastness of the landscape he passes through – dry and dusty, endlessly empty. Watch this film.

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Previous Five For Friday:

Postcards From Syrian Refugees

Costs of War

Conversations With History

Iraq War Documentaries

Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine

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art of resistance, Iran

Children of Heaven.

Children of Heaven (1997) is an Iranian film directed by Majid Majidi. Some time has passed since it was made, but it is timeless in its beauty. That is why I want to write something about it (now).

It’s a story about a boy from a poor family, Ali, who loses his sister’s shoes. He knows his father has no money to buy new ones, so he and his sister decide to share his sneakers. She goes to school in the morning, he goes in the afternoon. Every day after school, she runs fast to meet him, and they exchange shoes on the street (he takes the sneakers, she puts on the house slippers), and then he runs fast in order to get to school on time.

It’s an adventure, and they have a lot of additional issues on the way. The plot is very simple, but it captures such a bigger story. The issues of poverty – not being able to afford basic things, feeling frustrated, running in circles.. But, it also perfectly captures the creativity and adroitness growing out of poverty. Not being able to have something, you need to find your way – either make it somehow, or learn how to get around without it. And still find pleasure, and still be able to smile, and – love. That is the magic, and children are the ones who know how to do it the best.

All of the actors are great, but Amir Farrokh Hashemian, a boy playing Ali, is simply amazing. His emotions are so honest and moving.  I didn’t feel, at any point – he is an actor. It was real, it was his life. There’s this aura of beauty and innocence which makes it a true pleasure to watch. It took me back to my childhood. Our ways of making things and making things happen – little moments of joy – like not having money for firecrackers for New Year’s eve, but collecting milk cartons for days, inflating them and then jumping on them to make them sound like firecrackers. It was magic.

Be sure to watch to movie, if you haven’t. It’s unique, heartwarming, inspiring and just –  marvelous.

Here are some screenshots I took. Enjoy.

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