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. Read More »