Kamran Shirdel – An shab ke barun amad AKA The Night it Rained (1967)

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The Night It Rained is undoubtedly Kamran Shirdel’s best film and a masterpiece in the history of documentary filmmaking. In northern Iran, a schoolboy from a village near Gorgan is said to have discovered that the railway had been undermined and washed away by a flood. As the story goes, when he saw the approaching train, he set fire to his jacket, ran towards the train and averted a serious and fatal accident. Shirdel’s film does not concentrate on the heroic deed promulgated in the newspapers, but on a caricature of social and subtle political behavior – the way in which witnesses and officials manage to insert themselves into the research into this event. Shirdel uses newspaper articles and interviews with railway employees, the governor, the chief of police, the village teacher and pupils, each of whom tell a different version of the event. In the end, they all contradict each other, while the group of possible or self-appointed heroes constantly grows. With his cinematic sleights of hand, Shirdel paints a bittersweet picture of Iranian Society in which truth, rumor, and lie can no longer be distinguished. Continue reading

Kamran Shirdel – Teheran, payetakht-e Iran ast AKA Tehran is the Capital of Iran (1966)

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“Tehran is the Capital of Iran” (1966-79) documents life in a deprived district in the south of Tehran. The images of destitution in Tehran’s poor areas is accompanied by a variety of spoken accounts: the official viewpoint on the district’s living conditions, what the inhabitants have to say, and occasional extracts read out of school manuals. The key element in Shirdel’s film is the counterpoint effect he creates with image and sound. His impressively powerful portrayal of social unease helps reinforce the impact of his astonishing documentary images and social themes.. Continue reading

Kamran Shirdel – Nedamatgah AKA Women’s Prison (1965)

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“Women’s Prison” recounts the life of the prisoners and the problems their families encounter in their struggle to survive. Here again filmmaker Kamran Shirdel employs the cinema verité style. The interviews with the prisoners, social workers and teachers serve as commentaries for “constructed” documentary images. The technical process shows the extent to which solving social problems depends on everyone’s cooperation and participation. Certainly prisoners alone cannot offer the remedy to the entire catalog of social ills that propel these women into delinquency. Continue reading