Rakhshan Bani Etemad – Zir-e poost-e shahr AKA Under the Skin of the City (2001)

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Synopsis:
Tuba works daily at a grueling textile factory in Iran, returning home every night to deal with the rest of her problematic family, which includes: a pregnant daughter whose husband beats her regularly; a teenage son, who’s been getting into trouble due to his burgeoning career in radical politics; and an older son who goes to great lengths–such as attempting to sell the family’s meager house–in order to get an engineering job in Japan as a means of getting out of Iran. Unfortunately the ‘friend’ to whom he gave his money as an advance for his trip took off with the money, and the son finds himself without money, without a career, and with a debt towards a lot of people. To solve his problems he wants to deliver a package of heroin, but loses it, and has to flee. The film ends dramatically with a direct call from the mother to the camera crew asking what life has given them after all the sacrifices they have done, mirroring the opening scene. (Amazon) Continue reading

Narges Abyar – Nafas AKA Breath (2016)

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Quote:
Little Bahar lives a life spun from folklore and stories, always with her head in a book. But growing up in Yazd in the 1970s and ’80s, she’s at the centre of a country in turmoil: the Shah is overthrown, Ayatollah Khomeini rises to power, and the first shots are fired in a bitter and protracted war with Iraq. Over the span of several years, Bahar finds daydreaming in her own fantasy world is the only way she can make sense of the pain and suffering warring humans inflict on one another. Continue reading

Mohsen Makhmalbaf – The Gardener (2012)

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Synopsis:
The Gardener is a surreal film made using documentary-style techniques via the cameras of father and son (the Makhmalbafs) who go to Israel to learn about a religion (Baha’i faith) that they don’t know much due to its taboo status in the country of both the filmmaker and the faith’s birth – Iran. Continue reading

Parviz Kimiavi – Mogholha AKA The mongols (coloured version) (1973)

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From IMDB:
A director of a television series on the history of cinema, who has been grappling with the screenplay of his first feature film, receives an assignment to oversee the installation of a television relay station in a remote region of Zahedan province, near the Afghanistan border. He has already hired Turkoman tribespeople for his film and selected his filming location. Meanwhile his wife, who is working on her Ph.D. dissertation about the Mongol invasion of Iran, attempts to dissuade him from accepting the assignment. One night, while working on his history of the cinema series, the director fantasizes a diagetic world that consists of clever juxtapositions of his different worlds: the history of cinema, the history of the mongol invasion, his own film idea and his imminent assignment to the desert. Continue reading

Sohrab Shahid Saless – Yek Etefagh sadeh AKA A Simple Event (1974)

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Quote:
With A Simple Event Sohrab Shahid-Saless emerged on the Iranian film scene as a filmmaker with a distinctive style. Adopting an almost documentary style, Shahid-Saless records uneventful moments in the lives of ordinary people. He has said, “A Simple Event has no plot. It is only a report on the daily life of a boy”. Working with a cast of non-professional local players, Shahid-Saless constructed his film with realistic images that almost corresponded with the temporal flow of rural life. The film is so simple and unadorned that it creates the illusion of having been made with no prepared overall design.

For all its lyrical charm, A Simple Event must be considered as a prelude or a preparation for Shahid-Saless’s acclaimed film Still Life which was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction and the critics’ prize at the 24th Berlin International Film Festival in 1974. Continue reading

Kianoush Ayari – Boodan yaa naboodan AKA To be or Not to be (1998)

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Imdb review
Life is Precious, 21 August 2000
Author: Martin Kohler (mkohler@geoscience.org.za) from Pretoria, South Africa
Having known someone who needed a kidney transplant, I was aware of the tremendous difficulty in finding a tissue matched donor organ. This film, which is about a heart transplant, brings out the desperation of the patient for whom there is no longer any other treatment option very clearly and realistically.

What I had not considered, and what this film made me aware of, is the extremely difficult position that the relatives of a deceased person are put in when they are requested to give permission for an organ donation. At this point they are already suffering from the shock and grief of having lost someone they loved, and this additional burden can test the limits of what they can bear. Continue reading

Asghar Farhadi – Forushande AKA The Salesman (2016)

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Quote:
One of the many reasons that Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the greatest filmmaker of all time — the quintessential filmmaker — is that his spirit and technique infuse the work of so many other directors (maybe all of them). He is, of course, the eternal god of anyone who has ever made a thriller. But he also hovers over those who could hardly be less “Hitchcockian.” A perfect example is the masterly Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi. Farhadi makes dramas of domestic discord that refuse to heighten anything they show you; they are steadfastly observant, unvarnished, specific and real. Yet when we watch a Farhadi film like “A Separation” or “The Past,” or his new one, “The Salesman,” we’re seduced, almost by a kind of invisible reverse trickery, into a situation of clear-eyed naturalism, except that they also start to realize we’re caught in a gathering storm, and it has everything to do with the shifting interior sands of the people onscreen. We’re caught up in something that can only be called suspense, and it’s galvanizing, but the suspense hinges purely on what’s going on in the characters’ hearts and minds. Continue reading