FILMS OF YEARNING
Ten years ago, when the Croatians first became familiar with the wonders of Iranian cinema, the domestic audience, faced with a painstaking search of domestic film for a rescue-offering formula, was quite confused by the powerful simplicity and humanistic riches of Iranian films. The immodest western mind still cannot understand that wealth can be acquired from everyday banalities such as the yearning for a goldfish, a white balloon, and a pair of shoes or a boy’s attempt to return a notebook to a friend. Persian celluloid descendants have managed to create a dramaturgically exciting, plausible and exotic universe, which most often focuses on a child and his or her innocent desire, from a laborious search for such “trifles”.
Besides Jafar Panahi, Bahram Bayzai or Abbas Kiarostami who, under the protection of the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children, began his famous series of films about misunderstood children with The Traveler (1974), Majid Majidi is one of the most famous Iranian new wave directors to find his mission in exposing children’s desires soaked in melancholy. By doing so in a strictly standardized culture and cinema, he often revealed the limitations of family and the social environment, which is what makes them so bitter and impossible. This is evident in several of Majidi’s films to be shown in this program. Having displayed in Father (Pedar, 1996) how powerful and destructive emotional attachment of a child (son) to his parents (dead father and remarried mother) can be, in his next films – the yearnings of his little protagonists – the director opens up other cracks in family communication. In Children of Heaven (Bacheha ya aseman, 1997), an incredibly sweet film that earned an Oscar nomination, a brother and a sister’s alternating runs from their house to the school in worn out sneakers are motivated by the poverty of their suburban family as well as a patriarchal upbringing that does not allow open communication with parents or teachers, but rather requires children to be humble, obedient and patient. Continuing his successful author series, in Colour of Paradise (Rang e Khoda, 1999) Majidi contrasts a hypersensitive blind boy’s need for a family home with his father’s intention to get rid of the son after remarriage. Thus, the boy’s Arcadian homeland becomes a battlefield of multiple losses, sorrow and desperation. Baran (Rain, 2001), a romantic drama about an Afghan girl who works illegally at an Iranian construction site dressed as a boy in order to feed her refugee family, does not offer any comfort. Majidi stepped out of the children’s world in Baran and demonstrated how creatively inspiring restrictive codes of behavior and portrayal can be: each sensitive contact between the girl and her (obviously enamored) protector is strongly portrayed, has special poetics and is modestly erotic, in spite of the burka and the obligatory de-sexualized representation in Iranian films.
Majidi’s films are thematically complimentary with another film that is shown in this program, Hayat by Gholam Reza Ramezani (2006). It is a story from a rural area, this time a relentless story about an ambitious girl on her way to passing a crucial exam in school. Other films are by authors with whom the Zagreb audience is already familiar: Seyyed Reza Mir-karimi (As Simple As That / Be hamin sadegi, 2008) and Abbas Rafei (Butterfly in the Wind /Parvanei dar Baad, 2004). These films focus on the unenviable position of women in a patriarchal society, ranging from themes such as women’s loneliness and symbolic enslavement by household duties, such as in Mir-karimi’s chamber drama or literal enslavement shown at the beginning and end of the exotic desert quest of Rafei’s anti-heroine for her kidnapped child. (Diana Nenadić)