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Global Visions
Iranian Cinema: New Directors, New Directions

The best first film awards won at prestigious international film festivals last year for such works as A Time for Drunken Horses, Djomeh, The Day I Became a Woman, and Daughters of the Sun are testament to Iran’s status as an important reservoir of fresh filmmaking talent in contemporary world cinema. Curated by film professor Jamsheed Akrami, this series focuses on the achievements of the generation of Iranian filmmakers who began their careers in the 1990s. Some—such as Majid Majidi, whose Children of Heaven was the first Iranian film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, and Jafar Panahi, who won the Golden Lion for The Circle at the 2000 Venice Film Festival—are internationally known. Others remain largely unknown even in Iran. Collectively, they hold the promise of extending the fine cinematic tradition established by the first generation of Iranian artists: Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Dariush Mehrjui, Amir Naderi, and Bahram Bayzai.

We offer special thanks to critic, educator, and filmmaker Jamsheed Akrami, whose two documentaries, Dreams Betrayed and Friendly Persuasion, chronicle the development of Iranian cinema before and after the 1979 revolution.


Director Bahman Kiarostami in Person
November 2 (Friday) 7 pm

Tabaki

Directed by Bahman Kiarostami
Iran 2001, video, color, 27 min.
Farsi with English subtitles

After a promising debut with A Trip to the Traveler’s Land (1994)—about the child actor from his father’s film Traveler, seen some twenty years later—Bahman Kiarostami returns with this charming documentary about professional mourners in Iran. With an understated documentary style, Tabaki presents not only an uncanny view of a peculiar profession within a religious society but an insightful portrait of that society itself.

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screens with Tabaki (see above)

To Have or Have Not (Dashtan Va Nadashtan)

Directed by Niki Karimi
Iran 2001, video, color, 45 min. 
Farsi with English subtitles

With Abbas Kiarostami serving as producer, this documentary marks the directorial debut of the acclaimed Iranian actress Niki Karimi. While its title is evocative of a classic drama, To Have or Have Not examines the problems of childless couples in a traditional society like Iran’s, where infertility can be a serious threat to marriage. 

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November 3 (Saturday) 7 pm
November 5 (Monday) 9 pm

Daughters of the Sun (Dokhtaran Khorshid)

Directed by Maryam Shahriar
Iran 2000, 35mm, color, 90 min.
With Altinay Ghelich Taghani, Soghra Karimi
Farsi with English subtitles

In her debut film about the bitter fate of Iranian women in the countryside, California-trained director Maryam Shahriar takes a brave look at a controversial subject. Financial destitution forces a father to shave his daughter’s head and send her away, disguised as a young man, to work at a small carpet factory. Far from home, the lonely protagonist endures the cruel behavior of her boss and the romantic attentions of a female coworker. Notable for its transgression of strictures on bare-headedness and cross-dressing for women, Daughters of the Sun successfully creates the stark milieu of rural economic conditions. Shahriar’s sensitive direction won her the best first film award at the 2000 Montreal Film Festival. 


November 3 (Saturday) 9 pm
November 4 (Sunday) 7 pm

Going By (Az Kenar-e Ham Migozarim)

Directed by Iraj Karimi
Iran 2001, 35mm, color, 88 min.
With Fariba Kamran, Mehran Rajabi
Farsi with English subtitles

Going By chronicles a day in the lives of four carloads of characters traveling on the same road from Tehran to the Caspian Sea in the north. Although strangers to one another, the passengers of each vehicle are preoccupied by issues surrounding death—a metaphor that opens the conventions of the road movie to deeper considerations. In an apparent nod to Kiarostami (the subject of a book—the first in Farsi—by this mechanical engineer and critic turned director), the road is employed as a device for meditating the larger issues of life.

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November 7 (Wednesday) 9 pm
November 9 (Friday) 9 pm

The Paper Airplane (Mooshak-e Kaghazi)

Directed by Farhad Mehranfar
Iran 1997, 35mm, color, 90 min.
Farsi with English subtitles

This visually absorbing feature debut by the documentary maker Farhad Mehranfar is arguably his most charming film to date. A traveling projectionist assigned to show movies to villagers in remote areas takes his son with him to the northern region of Iran. The trip deepens the son’s understanding of his father’s work and introduces him to people and places outside of his urban cultural environment. While glorifying the magic of film as a modern medium of storytelling, The Paper Airplane also pays nostalgic homage to the vanishing cultural rituals that are threatened by the “imported” medium. 

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November 9 (Friday) 7 pm
November 14 (Wednesday) 9:45 pm

One More Day (Yek Rooz Bishtar)

Directed by Babak Payami
Iran 2000, 35mm, color, 75 min. 
Farsi with English subtitles

Babak Payami’s debut feature introduces a filmmaker of promise whose stylistic touch is worthy of the late Iranian master Sohrab Shaheed Saless (Still Life). The story concerns the quiet, undeclared relationship that gradually develops between a man and a woman who see each other every morning at a bus stop. By isolating his characters against the bustling backdrop of Tehran streets and its crowded, segregated buses, the Canadian-trained Payami makes a restrained but effective commentary on the segregation of sexes in an emotionally besieged society. 

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November 10 (Saturday) 7 pm
November 12 (Monday) 9 pm

Divorce Iranian Style

Directed by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini
UK/Iran 1998, 16mm, color, 80 min.
Farsi with English subtitles

In a small Tehran courtroom, the stories of three strong-willed women unfold as they employ reason, charm, pleas for sympathy, anger, and even a disarming wit to win what they each desperately need—a divorce. Divorce Iranian Style offers a unique window into the impassioned but very practical business of divorce (and marriage) in the lives of three Iranian women: Jamileh, who was saved by her own son from the hands of her abusive husband; the outspoken teenaged Zibah, who proudly stands up to her 38-year-old husband and his family; and the remarried Maryam, who is desperate to regain custody of her two daughters.

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November 10 (Saturday) 9 pm

Friendly Persuasion: Iranian Cinema After the Revolution

Directed by Jamsheed Akrami
US/Iran 2000, video, color, 99 min.
English and Farsi with English subtitles

Although a film renaissance altered the shape of cinema in Iran in the late 1960s, it was the radical revolution in 1979 that brought full international attention to Iranian cinema and made it a regular staple in film festivals across the world. Friendly Persuasion is a feature-length documentary that examines this body of work by framing several key questions—about the role of government, about censorship codes and the banning of Hollywood films, about the representation of women, and about the importance of children’s films—that are answered through commentary, scene analysis, and interviews with top Iranian filmmakers. Those interviewed represent three generations of Iranian filmmakers, from new-wave visionaries (Abbas Kiarostami, Dariush Mehrjui, Bahram Bayzai, Masoud Kimiai) to the generation of post-revolutionaries (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Ebraheem Hatami).

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November 11 (Sunday) 7 pm

My Name is Rocky

Directed by Bahman Moshar
Iran 2001, video, color, 57 min.
Farsi with English subtitles

This shocking documentary, which premiered this year at the Montreal Film Festival, paints a heartbreaking picture of the growing population of runaway girls in Tehran. An unseen religious judge allows the filmmaker to record proceedings that seem to fall somewhere between a hearing and a trial. The condemnatory tone of the judge interrogating the girls is mercifully balanced by the more sympathetic questions asked by director Moshar. The film presents an unflinching account of a hopeless generation of young Iranians trying to survive in a purgatory between familial pressures and social restrictions. 

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screens with My Name is Rocky (see above)

Gol Chador

Directed by Amir Ali Abdollah Zadeh
Iran 2001, video, color, 35 min.
Farsi with English subtitles

Moretti shot his first feature film on Super-8 for about $1,500. This humorous parody of totalitarianism is realized in the setting of an experimental theater group as Michele (Moretti), in his first screen appearance, finds himself in the grip of a marital crisis. A big hit with the Italian “cinema club” audience, the film established Moretti as Italian cinema’s enfant terrible. Commenting on the film’s character, the director confessed the motivation for this alter ego: “Michele’s obsessions, neuroses, rage, and enthusiasm are all mine, they come out of me. The only way I can reach others is by starting with myself.” 

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