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November 5 - December 10, 2002

Topics in Film
Imag(in)ing the Middle East



September 22 (Monday) 7 pm

Kandahar

Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Iran 2001, 35mm, color, 85 min.
With Nelofer Pazira, Hassan Tantaï
Farsi with English subtitles

Inspired by true events, this recent film by one of the masters of the new Iranian cinema is the story of a woman’s attempt to enter pre–September 11 Afghanistan to reach her sister in the Taliban-controlled city of Kandahar. Disguising herself in the required head-to-toe burkha, the expatriate Nafas—a Canadian journalist who fled her native Afghanistan as a teenager—wends her way to the city in the company of a string of Afghan characters, since it is illegal for women to travel alone. Notable for its striking imagery and poetic insights into the struggles of everyday Afghanis under the Taliban rule, Kandahar won the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

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November 12 (Tuesday) 7 pm
November 13 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Machorka-Muff

Directed by Dariush Mehrjui
Iran 1997, 35mm, color, 129 min.
Farsi with English subtitles
With Leila Hatami, Ali Mosaffa

A stunning portrayal of the clash between tradition and modernity, and between manipulation and the power of love, Mehrjui’s celebrated film focuses on Reza and Leila, an attractive and affluent young couple who are deeply in love and recently married. When they discover that Leila is unable to conceive, Reza steadfastly insists it does not matter. But his mother feels otherwise: she is determined that her son have children and continue the family line. Invoking tradition, she convinces her daughter-in-law that Reza must take a second wife to produce an heir.

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November 19 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Under the City’s Skin (Zir-e poust-e shahr)

Directed by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad
Iran 2000, 35mm, color, 92 min.
With Mohammad Reza Foroutan, Golab Adineh
Farsi with English subtitles

 

Director bani-etemad is one of the outstanding women filmmakers of the Iranian cinema. This hard-hitting drama about the realities of subsistence in a lower-class family trains a keen eye on the underside of life in contemporary Iran—including such taboo topics as prostitution, drugs, and corruption—but without ever falling into pathos or polemics. Tuba, plagued by asthma from her years of work in a textile factory, must tend to her bedridden husband and four children, including a pregnant daughter who lands back on her doorstep, a teenage son in hot water for his radical political activities, and her only gainfully employed son, an assistant to a clothing manufacturer, who dreams only of getting an exit visa to Japan. Under the City’s Skin was a box-office hit in Iran.

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November 26 (Tuesday) 7 pm

The White Rose (al-Warda al-baida)

Directed by Mohamed Karim
Egypt 1933, video, b/w 105 min.
With Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, Samira Khouloussi
Arabic with English subtitles

This classic musical melodrama launched the film career of one of Egypt’s greatest singers and composers, Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab. Galal Effendi, the son of an impoverished aristocrat, is forced to leave his studies to seek employment. After a short stint as a clerk, however, Galal discovers his musical talents and finds success as a popular singer. Through its story of upward mobility based on merit rather than influence, the film examines the emergence of Egyptian middle-class identity.

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December 3 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Determination (al-Azima)

Directed by Kamal Selim
Egypt 1939, video, b/w, 95 min.
With Hussein Sedqi, Fatma Rushdi
Arabic with English subtitles

Regarded as one of the most important Egyptian films of the 1930s and 1940s, Determination focuses on the plight of several young working-class men trying to make their way in the world amidst the squalor of an overcrowded neighborhood in Cairo. The first feature by Kamal Selim, Determination inaugurated an influential form of neorealist filmmaking that took as its subject the lives of ordinary people. It would spark some of the new directions in post-Revolution Egyptian cinema of the 1950s and 1960s.

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December 10 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Terrorism and the Kebab (al-Irhab Wal Kabab)

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
West Germany, 1971, color, 89 min.
With Hans Hirschmüller, Irm Hermann, Hanna Schygulla
German with English subtitles

The first Fassbinder film to garner broad praise in Germany and acclaim abroad, this color-saturated family drama with social overtones is set during the “economic miracle” years of the 1950s. The film’s protagonist has returned from a stint in the French Foreign Legion and has just been fired from his job in the police force for consorting with a streetwalker. His bourgeois family is horrified when he begins to peddle fruits and vegetables from a pushcart, and his socially conscious girlfriend leaves him. Settling for a loveless marriage with a manipulative wife, he sinks into increasing depression until the ultimate Fassbinderian resolution. An amalgam of high melodrama, street-smart action, and black comedy, the film remains a moral tale of unusual potency.

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