Samira Makhmalbaf – Sib aka The Apple (1998)


Author: Barry Scott Moore ( from Austin, Texas

‘The Apple’ is the best Iranian film I have seen. It is astonishing that Samira Makhmalbaf was a mere teenager when she made it. Even more astonishing is that the filmmaker convinced the people she filmed to participate in such an extraordinary dissection of their private world.

This film defies attempts to categorize it, but it is clearly indebted, as so much contemporary Iranian cinema seems to be, to Italian neo-realism. Like many of the classics of that movement, ‘The Apple’ mixes documentary with re-enactment and fictional construction, and one is not always sure where one strategy leaves off and another begins. More striking yet are the poetic interjections with which the filmmaker laces the narrative, such as a mysterious sequence towards the beginning when the parents and their two little girls are seen leaving a building, their backs to the camera, while mutterings and whisperings are heard on the soundtrack, or the remarkable closing shot, in which the film’s titular motif seems to become some kind of literalized metaphor–but of what? Of temptation, of sin, of freedom? Of all these things and more? Continue reading

Samira Makhmalbaf – Takhté siah AKA Blackboards (2000)


Review (

The irony at the center of Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf’s (The Apple) movie, Blackboards, is that basic education may have the power to radically improve the lives of the poor and nomadic Kurdish peoples of Iran and Iraq, but it’s dreadfully ineffective at addressing their immediate struggles to survive.

The picture opens with a gaggle of teachers making their way on foot through a dusty mountain pass in Iran, blackboards strapped to their backs, in search of students. Two of the teachers, Said (Said Mohamadi, Delbaran) and Reeboir (Bahman Ghobadi, writer-director of Marooned in Iraq), break away from the pack and then from each other. Said eventually falls in with a group of Kurdish refugees trying to make their way across the border into Iraq to return to their home town of Halebtcheh, which had previously suffered a chemical weapon attack at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Reeboir, meanwhile, runs into a group of young boys who work as “mules” in the criminal underground, running stolen goods back and forth between the Iran-Iraq border. Each man forms a bond with his new companions, though none of the struggling poor find their teaching skills particularly useful. Continue reading