From Folklore towards Modernity

These new or different Iranian films continue to explore fresh turf: from the rural to the urban, from traditional films for children to family dramas, to crime dramas; from psychological (anti)war films towards pyrotechnic spectacles...

Having followed the programs of Iranian films for several years now, we have become used to the fact that their selectors avoid films that are already famous hits. For the most part, they moderately dole out or simply skip authors or films that have already won awards in the Western world, and instead choose those which are primarily well respected and popular within the borders of Iran. Moreover, the selectors tend to focus their selection on films connected by theme, problems or production, which leads us to the conclusion that Iranian cinema, in spite of the strict cultural and religious codes governing it, is a dynamic, rich and colorful organism. Its movements are limited when it comes to the unassailable religious or political principles of the Islamic republic. However, these principles manage to come to terms with the poetic-minimalist patterns of the legendary authors of the first and second generation of post-revolutionary Iranian film such as Kiarostami, Panahi and Makhmalbaf, as well as with the populist (genre) patterns of this year’s selection of films by less well known Iranian directors, including one female director.

These new or different Iranian films continue to explore fresh turf: from the rural to the urban (Last Knot, The Children of Eternity, Night), from the traditional films for children to family dramas (Token, The Children of Eternity), to crime drama (Last Knot); from psychological (anti)war films towards pyrotechnic spectacles (The Third Day). One oddity is perhaps the Japanese-Iranian co-production The Wind Carpet by Kamal Tabrizi from 2003, which utilizes a similitude involving the traditional assembly of famous Iranian rugs and the personalities of children as the serendipitous basis for a story about the adventures of a Japanese man and his daughter visiting an Iranian family, as well as the dark-humored collision of Ozu's world with the mentality of Iranian children.

The second family drama from this year’s program, The Children of Eternity, was directed in 2006 by Pouran Derakhshandeh, the first Iranian female director after the Revolution. She is also the most famous director in this selection. Her story about a retarded boy that becomes an obstacle to the marriage of two young people from the upper middle class, indirectly questions possible consequences of patriarchal will interfere with an emotional relationship. The underage hero of the film Token (Fereidoon Hassanpoor, 2008) attempt to crack the tough nut of patriarchal tradition when he runs away from an orphanage in order to find his parents, only to meet a harsh uncle who refuses to provide him with a home.

Humanistic character combined with simple and linear exposition as a trademark of Iranian film dominate Rasool Sadr'Ameli’s film The Night, a humorous sentimental drama focused on two people in an unusual situation: a young policeman and his older prisoner are forced to spend a night under the same roof even though their relationship is mistrustful and additionally made worse by their private problems.

Atypical or at least unusual for Iranians is the film by Hassan Lafafiyan Last Knot, a contemporary crime drama that deals with the mysterious death of a respectable businessman in Teheran, while intrigue and passion revolve in a symbolic way around the design of a Persian rug as well as a woman with a suspicious history. Finally, a woman, this year represented much more in a “passive” way, is at the center of an Iranian-Iraqi war in Trećem danu by Mohammad H. Latifi. This film attractively combines patriotic passions with elements of melodrama, thriller and action. It was officially acclaimed as the Best Iranian Film of 2007. (Diana Nenadić)