Middle Eastern Magic

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Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:00 pm

Samira Makhmalbaf's THE APPLE (Sib) & BLACKBOARDS (Takhte Siah)

Samira Makhmalbaf is the daughter of the famous Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. She appeared in her father's great The Cyclist at the age of 7. Her first feature, The Apple, was part of the official competition at Cannes in 1998 (Un Certain Regard). Two years later at the age of 20, she became the youngest director at Cannes to compete for the Palm D'or for her second feature, Blackboards, winning her first Prix de Jury. She also recently directed the Iranian segment in the controversial collection of shorts films called 11' 09" 01. I don't believe there is another director in the world with such honors at this age. It certainly helps to be the daughter of the great Makhmalbaf but I can't help but feel that his shadow still looms large and in a way has hurt her to be recognized on her own.

Her debut The Apple was based on a true story, not one but many as it was (and probably is) a norm for poor Iranian families to hide their daughters in order to "protect" them from the world. In the film we see a social worker working hard to convince the father of the two little girls who've been trapped to let them out so they can experience life for themselves. Here the father is not shown as a cruel human being but as someone whose mindset is the product of the mullahs who have set political and social standards in that country for years with-out paying much attention to the true teachings of Islam. The film doesn't end with the girls just being free but we see their mannerisms and behaviors once they leave and how awkward they are. Makhmalbaf uses this as a metaphor for all women and seems to be asking a question as to when women are given a bit of freedom how else are they supposed to react, and the society instead to giving them time to develop and find themselves, blames them for being incapable to do so. The last scene shows their blind mother going out to look but instead after much distress finds an apple (used as a metaphor for wisdom).

For her next film, Blackboards, Samira Makhmalbaf moves towards a border like many of her contemporary Iranian filmmakers have done, but here it's not the Iran-Afghan border but the one opposite, the Iran-Iraq one and more specifically the one to the north, with "Kurdistan." Few Kurd teachers are seen roaming around with huge blackboards on their back looking for pupils to teach as bombing in their homeland have left them stranded. One teacher joins a group of refugees. Along the way they dodge the aircrafts flying over their head, border police, smugglers etc., but some of them do end up getting caught and either die or aren't able to move further. The teacher ends up getting engaged to the woman whose father is in bad shape and he wants to hands over the burden as the woman also has a son from a previous marriage. The film at times becomes a bit unrealistic as we are treated to some imaginary proclamations of love in this harsh journey but the Makhmalbaf's head is in the right place proven by the decision the engaged woman makes at the end , ultimately making her son the only man she needs at this point in the journey.

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 6:10 pm

Tabiate bijan (1974) Still Life

Moved -Link

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 8:28 pm

WOW! You saw a film by Sohrab Shahid Saless?! I've been dying to see his work. How and where? :(

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby trevor826 » Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:29 pm

Cheers arsaib4, "Still Life" was part of the CinemaIran season on Channel 4 in the UK as were the majority of the films I've listed so far, it was very interesting with around 9 feature films, 2 documentaries and a few short films as well. It's a shame we can't have more seasons like this.

I understand that Sohrab Shahid Saless only made a couple of films in Iran before living and working in Germany, I would like to see his other Iranian films, certainly if they're as good as this one.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby chard09 » Fri Jun 17, 2005 9:57 am

From a previous post I made:

Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry

I slept for almost 10 hours and have been awake by 10 in the evening. I was quite depressed at that time and felt the need to help myself by watching a film. I'm really interested with Kiarostami's works since my first encounter with him in The Wind Will Carry Us, I'm really impressed not only of his style but on how he views life in general. He, as well as Makhmalbaf, are known for their beliefs in their own religion being seen in their films, which might be compared to Tarkovsky's (perhaps not that much but close to that). I was lonely, so I watched Taste of Cherry.

I don't want to discuss more of its plot for others to enjoy this film but I just want to clarify, I agree to other people, that this film isn't about suicide. Even Kiarostami himself fights and reasons out to their government that it really isn't about it. It is about the choices a man has to bear in his life. Choices that can lead him to a state when he feels there's no more reason to move on. I'm a Catholic (not that much as before), so I know what suicide means to a strict believer. Of course, suicide is a universal term, denotatively. But its connotation is far beyond its physical meaning, a different religion or society could interpret it as a mortal sin, as Muslims and Catholics do. I don't know if a certain group considers it the other way around. But why is Mr. Badii wants to commit suicide? Kiarostami doesn't tell. He wants us to know by ourselves. He wants as 'to read between the lines,' as a popular phrase goes. He wants as to be participatory. Maybe he, himself, doesn't know it as well.

The 'documentary style' is very effective. The way Mr. Badii poses questions to the persons inside his car, is like seeing Kiarostami asking them. He wants to share, more than to know. He wants to hear them. And these characters are telling a lot of insightful things. Something we may even don't know before. I notice his emphasis and commentary on soldiers, and perhaps was given justice in that surprising final scene. His focus on them, perhaps their participation in the Iran-Iraq War, is exemplary. That final scene, though they are actors, are perhaps to let us see the contrast. They are happy in that video, even waving their hands (their actors, of course) but in real life, soldiers in Iran are really sad and they really don't benefit in those wars, cause no one does. Kiarostami even included in the script of Jafar Panahi's The White Balloon a scene where that little girl met a soldier and talks to him about life while she's in that desperate need to get her money. But these soldiers continue to move on.

I just read a stupid review in Amazon of the DVD that the film could've been only half an hour long if they have cut those long driving scenes, and probably he/she would have enjoyed it more. What a mind he has? Hasn't he realized how powerful those scenes are? It's a Kiarostami signature, I guess, as seen also in The Wind Will Carry Us, and even more longer. The long and winding road, our life is a never-ending search. Those beautiful landscape shots are immensely great that I can say that's one of the greatest ideas a man of cinema could create. It sums up all his viewpoints, his vision. Perhaps that's why the term, Kiarostamian, is coined. Those shots in TWWCU, crane shots I guess, of the village is unmatched of its beauty and philosophical points. That scene in Taste of Cherry where Mr. Badii is in the construction site and his shadow is being poured by sands, then a man approaches him to stay away, is of all positive superlatives of greatness I can give.

Abbas Kiarostami, along with Lars Von Trier, Wong Kar Wai Hou Hsiao Hsien and great others, are the ones who changed cinema in the 90s and flourished because of their works. But by right now, I'm pretty sure that Kiarostamian vision and his films will stand the test of time -- the same way Fellini, Godard and Tarkovsky left their mark in the world cinema.

Looking forward to see another film from him. Hopefully, I'll be lucky to see another one. I need Kiarostami to enlighten my mind.

Kindly share your thoughts about the film. Thanks.

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby trevor826 » Sat Jun 25, 2005 7:51 am

Chard09, one thing that troubles me as someone who is not religious, the major religions virtually demand martyrdom which is pretty much putting yourself in the position where you know you will die and yet totally opposes suicide. Is there a simple reasoning behind this?

Cheers Trev.

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby chard09 » Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:41 am

Hi trevor, forgive for the super late response. Anyway, I must admit, though I'm raised as a Catholic, I do not practise, or at some points, even believe, my religion. I find that the notions Kiarostami is trying to present and argue in most of his films is that spirituality is something universal. I don't know if that demands a belief on a Higher Being, but I guess the feeling is something different from the 'physical' world, which I assume you feel sometimes. The questioning of the self, the Absolute, and all those things. I do not believe in what most priests here claiming that 'faith is beyond reason'. By the time you choose a belief, that requires certain logic, so their statements are contradictory. That is, what religion really is, doomed to be arguing its own doctrines. Religion exists through oppositions. Like Pauline Kael is not Pauline Kael if she doesn't contradict her ideas. Likewise, I also disagree with the thought of extreme martyrdom or sacrifice of one's self, but these are the things, I guess, I will realize as I continue to live, that is if I don't die early. I just feel overwhelmed of Kiarostami's films because they tend to suggest these things without preaching and not being didactic. That is, I may not do what he suggests. It's really up to me. And I think that's what the concept of religion should respect, we are thinking.

Oh well, forgive me, am I able to answer your question? I might discussed something out of context.

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby wpqx » Fri Oct 28, 2005 1:28 am

About time this topic got dug up again.

The Hidden Half (2001) - Tahmineh Milani

Well I began to wonder if I had peaked in Iranian film. All too often the films are merely stories of the poor and unfortunate, depressing tales of hardship and adversity. I was yet to see an Iranian film that showed anyone with a slight degree of wealth or even one that showed Iranian's as somewhat comparable to western citizens. That changed with The Hidden Half, a distinctly feminist film that shows an Iran not torn assunder by poverty and famine, but by ideology.

This is a daring film, one that makes political references rarely if ever shown in a film FROM Iran. It takes place during the cultural revolution of the late seventies and early eighties, and it shows women not just as capable of being independant thinkers, but even more so than men. It is comparable to the political films of Godard (minus the overt artiness) and socially consious American movies of the sixties. Because of that I believe the film works, but more than those films this happens to show the aftermath of ideology. It shows what happens when the idealism dies, and how it happens. This is the most important aspect of the film imo. All too often in those films of the time we see the idealist uncompromising, but we realize from history that those revolutionaries don't last.

The life of the film is from director Tahmineh Milani, who was arrested during the making of the film. True to the nature of the story, her crime was punishable by death. Luckily due to her popularity she was released and the film was able to be made. Like many Iranian films though, this seemed to find its audience outside of Iran. Like Milani's previous film Two Women, this stars Niki Karimi, who may very well be the most beautiful Iranian woman I've ever seen. There isn't a great deal of makeup here, and 17 years past, the characters basically look the same. I think it's more thematic than anything. Hard to show how ideas can't change, so instead lets show how people don't change. Sure there is a transition, but it is the essential person that remains the same. Karimi's Fereshteh (same name from Two Women) was made by her ideology. The person she is deep down inside was formed at this crucial time when she was still 19, even if her beliefs have remained internal.

I'd say The Hidden Half is a remarkable film. Sure there is something of a love story, that can offer melodrama, but for once I'd rather see romance be melodramatic than people starving and being exploited as so many Iranian films do. To me, this film represents a potential turning point for Iranian film, just as Rosellini's Voyage in Italy did for Italian film. The story of the poor and underprivalleged can only go so far, a different aspect of society needs to be examined in a national cinema, and with this film perhaps we can start to see a more idea driven Iranian film, rather than one so painfully immitating the Neorealist movement.

Grade A

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby A » Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:56 am

Oh me, I've totally forgotten about this great thread. That's why I posted my review of "a simple event" under classic cinema forum. Well you can link it if you want.

wpqx, where did you see The Hidden Half? So thi is the film for which the female director was imprisoned in Iran. I'd love to see this! Has it a theatrical release?

Re: Middle Eastern Magic

Postby wpqx » Sun Nov 06, 2005 7:21 pm

Facet's in Chicago released it on VHS, I rented it from them.


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