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Topics in Film - Imag(in)ing the Middle East


October 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Once Upon a Time, Cinema (Nassereddin Shah Actor-e Cinema)

Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Iran 1992, 35mm, b/w & color, 100 min.
With Ezzatollah Entezami, Mehdi Hashemi
Farsi with English subtitles

In his youth, Mohsen Makhmalbaf refused to go to the movies as an act of political resistance to what he viewed as the “selling of dreams to a people who lived in misery.” His activism led to his imprisonment during the last years of the Shah’s regime. At age twenty-three, Makhmalbaf finally entered the cinema and discovered his life’s work. Once Upon a Time, Cinema is his loving homage to the history of Iranian cinema and in particular to its earliest work. Using references to films like Hajagha, the Film Actor and The Lor Girl (the first Iranian “talkie”), he weaves a fantastic tale of a Persian monarch who becomes so enraptured with a movie heroine that he abdicates his throne to become an actor. 

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October 22 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Where Is the Friend’s House? (Khaneh-ye Dust Kojast) 

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Iran 1987, 35mm, color, 80 min.
With Babek Ahmadpoor, Ahmad Ahmadpoor
Farsi with English subtitles

This is the first work in a trilogy of films that would bring Iranian director Kiarostami to international prominence. Set in a village in northern Iran, Where in the Friend’s House? is the simple yet powerful tale of a young boy who discovers he has accidently taken the notebook of a school friend who lives in a nearby village. Determined to locate his friend, Ahmad bravely journeys to places—both geographical and psychological—he has never ventured before. 

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October 29 (Tuesday) 7 pm 

Bashu, The Little Stranger (Bashur: Gharibeh-ye Kuchak)

Directed by Bahram Beizai
Iran 1986, 35mm, color, 120 min.
With Adnan Afravian, Susan Taslimi
Farsi with English subtitles

Described by its director as a film “about displacement and relocation,” Bashu follows the plight of its title character, a boy of ten, as he flees the air raid that destroys his family’s home. Heading north, Bashu ends up in the care of a strong-willed farm woman who, in giving him a home, helps him understand a new form of family. Because of its humanist, anti-war sentiments, Bashu was not shown in Iran until 1989.

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