documentaries

Cape Town Recovery Film Festival

The First Cape Town Recovery Film Festival (CTRFF) marks the start of an annual event at the heart of an initiative to celebrate and encourage a Recovery Culture and Lifestyle in the city. The idea for this project developed out of the feedback got from a couple of film screenings done at The Labia Theatre (Bill W – The Movie and Happy – The Movie, both sold out the main screen) and from similar events in the USA and the UK.  

Features and Documentaries

         

All My Loved Ones (2000), Director: Matej Mináč, Running time: 91 minutes.

Matej Minac's heartbreaking and poignant story of one family's experience at the onset of World War II is inspired by the heroics of English stockbroker Nicholas Winton who saved hundreds of Czech Jewish children from the Nazis and is loosely based on his own mother's personal memories of the time.      

 

The Children Who Cheated the Nazis (2000), Director: Sue Read, Running time:

The Children Who Cheated the Nazis is a documentary about the Kindertransport, by the director Sue Read and producer Jim Goulding. This documentary film was broadcast by Channel 4 (UK) on September 28th, 2000, and has since been broadcast in America, Israel, France, Australia, Spain and worldwide. The film is narrated by Lord Richard Attenborough, Academy Award winning film actor and director, who features in the film, talking about the two Kindertransport children his family gave a home to. Also featured is Warren Mitchell, whose family also took in a Kindertransport child.

 

Into the Arms of Strangers (2001), Director: Mark Jonathan Harris, Running time: 122 minutes

This Academy Award®-winning documentary (produced with the cooperation of the United States Holocaust Museum) chronicles one of the lesser-known stories of the Holocaust: that of the kindertransport, which saved the lives of 10,000 Jewish children. In the late 1930s, England agreed to accept these children seeking refuge from Nazi oppression. They were placed in foster homes and hostels. Narrated by Dame Judi Dench and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris (who received an Oscar® for his 1997 Holocaust documentary The Long Way Home), this devastating and deeply moving film bears witness to the kindness of these "simply wonderful people" and to the resilience of the kinder, now elderly, who recall in haunting stories the unimaginable grief of being suddenly torn from their parents, the trauma of not knowing whether they would ever see them again, and the difficulties some faced in their new homes. Recalls one, "None of the foster parents with whom I stayed could stand me for very long. But all of them had the grace to take in a Jewish child." But despite having their youth uprooted, many possess an indomitable spirit. One woman speaks of devoting her adult life to human rights and social justice causes. "I can't pay back or thank some of the people who helped me," she states, "But I can do something for other people."  (Donald Liebenson for Amazon.com) 

         

         

         

         

     

A free study Guide for "Into the Arms of Strangers" is able at: http://www2.warnerbros.com/intothearmsofstrangers/studyguide.html# and can be downloaded as a PDF file.

 


My Knees Were Jumping (1996), Director: Melissa Hacker, Running time: 76 minutes.

In the nine months just prior to World War II nearly 10,000 children were sent, without their parents, to Great Britain from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. These children were rescued by the Kindertransport movement. Most of the children never saw their parents again. Those courageous parents who had the strength to send their children off to an unknown fate soon boarded transports taking them to concentration camps.

The story of the Kindertransports is an extraordinary piece of history-- unknown far too long. The children who lived the trauma and terror of being uprooted from secure homes tell amazing stories. Into the darkness of the Holocaust it is important to add true tales that are life affirming.

Melissa Hacker, a documentary filmmaker, has produced, directed and edited My Knees Were Jumping; Remembering the Kindertransports,the first feature-length documentary on this important but hidden story of the Holocaust. The filmmaker has lifelong, intimate knowledge of this story, as her mother was one of the children rescued from Vienna by the Kindertransport movement in January 1939.

 

Operation Kindertransport (2009), BBC Production, Running time:

As part of Operation Kindertransport during World War II hundreds of Jewish children were given refuge at Gwrych Castle. The facilities were extremely basic, with no running water or electricity, as the castle was not connected to the main water and electricity supplies, and no fuel was available for the generators. The children left Gwrych only after the war had ended, when land in the newly created state of Israel became available. This BBC transmitted production was filmed at Gwrych in 2009, where some of the “children” recall their time at Gwrych.

 


That Life (1988), BBC Production, Running time: under 10 minutes for both films.

Sir Nicholas Winton who organised the rescue and passage to Britain of about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport. This video is the BBC Programme "That's Life" aired in 1988.

           

 

The Power of Good (2002), Director: Matej Mináč, Running time: 64minutes.

In 1939, Nicholas Winton personally saved the lives of 669 children. Most of them were Jewish — from Czechoslovakia, which was soon to be occupied by the Nazis. He brought them to Britain and kept it a secret for nearly 50 years. In 2002 Queen Elizabeth II conferred knighthood on Winton.

 

Lesson: Bridge to Iran (Link TV: Television without Borders)


Bridge to Iran is a unique new series on Link TV that showcases documentary films by contemporary independent Iranian filmmakers who live and work in Iran. This nationally-broadcast series will provide a fresh view of what ordinary Iranians are concerned about and the issues they grapple with. The series covers a wide-ranging scope of subjects: first-hand accounts by young girls facing womanhood within an Islamic society; religious pilgrims who risk their lives to visit a holy site in war-torn Iraq; rural life and political awareness; and an energetic and surprising exploration of Tehran as a mega metropolis.

This is the first time an American television channel has presented a series of documentary films about Iran by Iranian filmmakers.  The result is a shattering of our preconceived ideas about a nation and culture that most Americans have little or no real knowledge or experience of. Each documentary in the series will be introduced by Salome Azizi, the Bridge to Iran series host, with comments from each filmmaker, who will provide additional context and background.

Visit Bridge to Iran, http://www.linktv.org/bridgetoiran, whcih is hosted by Link TV:Television without Borders and watch one or more of the introductory shorts.  Be a critic.  Write a review of the work of Bridge to Iran's work and the importance of viewing work that speaks directly to the people of Iran.  In your critic speak to how your images of Iran may have been changed because of what you saw. 

You can also arrange to view the entire film on a night it appears on Direct TV or Dish Network TV.  In this way, your critique can be more informed.

 

 

 

Films and Documentaries

 

Ahmad Mahmoud: A Noble Novelist (2004), Director: Bahman Maghsoudlou, Running time: 60 minutes.

Ahmad Mahmoud (1931-2002) was a leading Iranian novelist who, over his fifty-year career, published nine short story collections and six novels, including The Native Boy (1972), The Strangers (1972) and The Neighbors (1974).  His writing reflects his political engagement, his concern for the poor and the working class, and his love for his native region of Khuzestan. Mahmoud testifies eloquently to all these concerns in lengthy, and moving, on-camera interviews. This portrait of a well-loved and incredibly talented writer, later overlooked as anti-revolutionary, attests to the extreme difficulties often faced by Iranian writers. Language: Farsi with English subtitles.

 

Ahmad Shamlou: Master Poet of Liberty (1999), Director: Moslem Mansouri, Running time: 62 minutes.

Ahmad Shamlou (December 12, 1925 - July 24, 2000) was a Persian poet, writer, and journalist. Shamlou s poetry is complex, yet his imagery—which contributes significantly to the intensity of his poems - is simple. For infrastructure and impact, he uses a kind of everyday imagery in which personified oxymoronic elements are spiked with an unreal combination of the abstract and the concrete unprecedented in Persian poetry before him. He is considered as the founder of Persian blank poetry. It is said that you cannot find a literate household in Iran where there is none of his poetry books available. He is an engaged poet in the sense that his poetry addresses socio-political issues of his time, with a prophetic emphasize on Liberty and Human Rights.

He has also written and translated numerous articles and books on a spectrum of subjects, from political to literary. His voluminous Ketab-e Koucheh (The Book of the Allies) is a major contribution to understanding Iranian folkloric beliefs and language. In 1984 he was nominated for the Noble Prize in Literature.

 

America So Beautiful (2001), Director: Babak Shokrian, Running time: 91 minutes.


America So Beautiful follows the odyssey of a group of Iranian Immigrants in Los Angeles, trying to find their place in America amidst the unfolding of the 1979 Iran hostage crises. Houshang believes his ticket out of his uncles Persian market is to become a partner in a glittery disco - if he can just come up with the money. As Houshang struggles to pull his family into the deal, he decides to show them a piece of the drem by taking them out for an evening at the disco. They instead encounter a night of surprise and transformation, filled with hilarity, pain and revelation. Houshang's desperate night of assimilation becomes a moving search for identity, culture and an effecting dissection of the American dream. (Written by Ken Hastings for IMDb)

 

The Apple (1997), Director: Samira Makhmalbaf, Running time: NA

A father imprisons her two children in the house for 11 years from when they were 2 years old up to when they became 13 years old. When the neighbors become aware of the fact and inform the welfare ministry to come and help the children, the girls have already become retarded and could not talk and walk like the girls their own age. After a while the welfare ministry sends the children back to their father on the condition that he does not imprison them again but their father imprisons them once again. A nurse whom has come to the house to take care of the children is forced to lock the father in the house to be able to take the children to play in the streets. The girls experience their first social life when they step into the street and their father whom has been locked in the house notices the condition of his imprisoned girls. At the end the girls whom were now free, struggle to free their father from the house prison.

 

 

Bab'aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul (2006), Director: Nacer Khemir, Running time: 96 minutes.


Bab Aziz is a feast for the eyes, the ears, and most of all the heart. A small girl follows her elderly grandfather out into the desert of the soul in search of a gathering of dervishes, and what a gathering it is! But getting there, like life itself, is the transformative part, without which the arriving itself can never happen. This tale within a tale within a tale is sure to delight fans of Sufism, mysticism, great epic tales, and really good music. (Aaron Vlek "Aaron Vlek)

 

Baran (2001), Director: Majid Majidi , Running time: 94 minutes.

In a Tehran building site, a 17-year-old Iranian named Lateef is known more for his playful antics than his hard work. Then things take an unexpected turn when an Afghan coworker falls from the building and the worker's son, Rahmat, enters the scene to become the new provider for his family. But even as Lateef finds himself irresistibly drawn to Rahmat, it's not until the revelation of Rahmat's secret (that he is actually a young woman, posing as a man) that both of their lives are forever changed!

 

Bashu the Little Stranger (1989), Director: Bahram Beizai, Running time: 117 minutes.


This touching, thought-provoking Iranian children's drama, from 1989 has a simple story, but complex undertones as it is simultaneously a quiet plea for peace and tolerance, an entertaining story and a sly, metaphorical criticism of Moslem fundamentalist thinking. It also presents a view of Iranian rural life seldom seen by Westerners.

 

Beyond Words (2004), Director: Jahanshah Ardalan, Running time: 39 minutes.


After being away from his country of birth for close to two decades, the Iranian born filmmaker goes back to discover his roots and the land of his ancestors, Kurdistan. During the many trips there, he realizes a lot more than just his own family background.

The film was mostly shot in the Iranian Kurdistan. At first I went there to look further into my family's 1000 years of documented History in Kurdistan. An old childhood mystery about Kurdistan gradually took over and changed my focus. That enigma shrouded in myths and folk tales, centered on the elusive men of the Ghaderi order of Derwishes or Sufies in Kurdistan.

 

Blackboards (2000), Director: Samira Makhmalbaf, Running time: not available.


This is a film by a very young, Iranian filmmaker, Samira Makhmalbaf, who was nineteen years old at the time that she filmed it. She comes from an Iranian family steeped in the filmmaking tradition, as her father, Mosen Makhmalbaf, was a director. Her mother used to act in her husband's films, as did Samira, as a child. In fact, her father was the producer, as well as the co-screenwriter and editor, for this film.

This film, which received the 2000 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, takes place in the Kurdistan region of Iran and was filmed in Kurdish. None of the performers are professional actors, except for Behnaz Jafari, who is a noted Iranian stage and film actress and plays the only female role in the film. Local village people were used for the other roles, except for the role of one of the teachers, which was played by a Kurdish filmmaker. The film was shot on location in the rugged mountainous terrain in the Kurdistan region of Iran, near the Iranian/Iraqi border.

 

Black Tape: A Tehran Diary (2002), Director: Fariborz Kamkari, Running time: 85 minutes.

Grand Prize Winner - Maverick Spirit Award, Cinequest Film Festival In Black Tape: A Tehran Diary, a video tape found in the garbage is revealed to be a young Kurdish wife's daily video diary. The film follows Galavije who is quickly shown to be not much more than a sex slave to her Iranian husband. Told from Galavije s video diary accounts, the film slowly reveals Galavije s imprisonment by her husband as well as his murky involvement with the military. After she becomes pregnant, she begins to fear for her life and starts fighting back. The film courageously investigates injustice through its combination of political intrigue and innovative narrative technique.

 

Born Under Libra (2001), Director: Ahmad Reza, Running time: 95 minutes.


Born Under Libra made headlines in Iran when the film's director was kidnapped by arch-conservatives and left to die in the desert. (He was later rescued.) In a plot familiar to both the cinema and daily life in Iran, young people struggle to reconcile progressive attitudes with strict religious traditions of an older generation. Daniel is in love with fellow university student Mahtab, but her father is campaigning for segregated classes at the university. Daniel's association with an ultra-religious group and Mahtab's sympathies with the reformist's push the couple further apart. After his love letter to Mahtab is made public, the couple flees Tehran for the countryside, but their attempt to return to the city is a nightmare through a dangerous wasteland.  Born Under Libra, starring one of Iran's most popular actors, Mohammad Reza Farutan (Two Women) is a romantic drama of youthful unrest and an allegory for Iran's ongoing political turmoil. 

 

Boutique (2003), Director: Hamid Nematollah, Running time:113 minutes.

Hamid Nematollah's compelling drama "stakes out a new path for Iranian cinema" (Variety) as it exposes key problems plaguing modern-day Tehran. Johan is a gentle and thoughtful young man who works as a window dresser at a fashionable boutique. When a poor and very beautiful young girl enters his store Johan feels compelled to steal a pair of blue jeans for her. This action triggers a downward spiral that will change Johan's life forever. "Painfully real and engaging" (Kevin Thomas Los Angeles Times). In Farsi with English subtitles.

 

Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, Director: Hana Makhmalbaf, Running time: 77 minutes.


This remarkable and beautifully shot Iranian film explores the fundamentalist Muslim Taliban regime through the eyes of children; too young to fully understand it but old enough to feel its impact on their lives. Baktay is a six-year-old Afghan girl with a strong desire to read and attend school, something which only boys are encouraged to do. Whilst her mother is away Baktay steals her lipstick to use as a pencil, and trades stolen eggs for a notebook. She then heads off to school, on a dangerous route which takes her into the 'play area' of a group of wild boys playing war games. What follows is a skillfully handled contrast between the innocence of youth and the brutality of the grown-up world that they are imitating. 

 

Cafe Setareh (2007), Director: Saman Moghadam, Running time: 102 minutes.


Three women who live in a poor neighborhood in Tehran actively seek a better life in this contemporary slice of Iranian life. Café Setareh focuses on Fariba, Saloomeh, and Moluk in a triptych of warm-hearted, interwoven stories. Fariba operates the café of the title, while her alcoholic, unemployed husband sponges off her; Saloomeh debates on whether to marry Ebi, whose one good deed doesn’t make up for his mean, controlling streak; and Moluk, a middle-aged landlady, pines for a man who has his own problems. 

 

Cease Fire (2006), Director: Tahmineh Milani, Running time: 105 minutes.


In search of a divorce attorney, high-powered project engineer Sayeh (Mahnaz Afhsar) winds up in a psychiatrist's office, where she recounts the stormy fights she's had with her spoiled contractor husband (Mohammad Reza Golzar). Before long, the shrink has the bickering couple investigating their inner children. Director Tahmineh Milani tackles gender inequalities in Iran with a humorous touch in this romantic comedy.

 

Children of Heaven (1999), Director: Majid Majidi, Running time:  89 minutes. 


A delightful Iranian movie about a boy who accidentally loses his sister's shoes and must share his own sneakers with her in a sort of relay while each attends school at different times during the day. Finally, the boy enters a much-publicized foot race, hoping to place third. The prize: a new pair of sneakers.

 

The Circle (2000), Director: Jafar Panahi, Running time: 91 minutes. 


Director Jafar Panahi's portrait of the status of women in fundamentalist Iran is, by any stretch of the imagination, depressing. But just getting the film made was a major political feat, given Iran's dogmatic view of women and unstable political climate. The fact that this film (made by a man) is sensitive to women's plight sheds a ray of hope that, given time, things may gradually change.

 

Close Up (1990), Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Running time: 100 minutes.


On a bus in Tehran, an unemployed movie buff reading a published screenplay passes himself off as its author, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Invited into the home of a credulous family, the impostor announces his plan to make a film starring their adult son. The father, growing skeptical, invites a journalist to visit, who, in turn, brings the police. Having read an account of this true case, the director Abbas Kiarostami decided to make a film of it, in which each participant would re-enact his own role-including Kiarostami himself. In so doing, he also gained permission to film the trial, which was presided over by religious authorities. In this 1990 masterpiece of ironic reflexivity, Kiarostami's clear, self-possessed vision reveals the dogma of others while conveying none of its own, besides a faith in the power of the cinema itself to expose the artifice on which it depends. If religion is the suppression of the evidence of the eye through the dictate of the word, such calmly unwavering images, with their wry humor and generous sympathy, have the force of a quiet, steadfast resistance. (Richard Brody for the New Yorker)

 

The Color of Paradise (1999), Director: Majid Majidi, Running time: 90 minutes. 


Awash in the sights and sounds of an Iranian summer, this moving family drama stars Mohsen Ramezani as Mohammed, an 8-year-old blind boy whose poor widower father (Hossein Mahjoub) nearly abandons him at a school for blind children. Welcomed home by his grandmother and sisters, the bright boy is eager to immerse himself in the world of the seeing—but his father fears Mohammed may hinder his attempts to remarry into a prosperous family.

 

Crimson Gold (2004), Director: Jafar Panahi,  Running time: 97 minutes.


When Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin) finds a receipt for a necklace in a stolen purse, he's flabbergasted by the large sum of money. He knows that his miniscule salary will never be enough to afford such luxury. What's more, he's sick of the hypocrisy of a social system that makes people like him (on the lower rungs) feel like an outcast. But all that is about to change--at least for one night.

 

The Cow (1974), Director: Dariush Mehrjui,  Running time: 129 minutes.


Influenced by Italian Neorealism, The Cow has the beauty and simplicity associated with the great films of that movement. In a small village in Iran, Hassan cherishes his cow more than anything in the world, for both emotional and economical reasons. While he is away, the cow mysteriously dies, and the villagers protectively try to convince Hassan the cow has wandered off. Grief stricken, Hassan begins to believe he is his own beloved bovine. The story is Mehrjui's treatise on emotional attachment told in his characteristic simple and touching manner.

The Cow won great acclaim at the Venice Film Festival after being smuggled out of Iran in 1971, and was twice voted the best Iranian film ever made by a survey of Iranian film critics.

 

Dance Of Dust (1991), Director: Abolfazl Jalili, Running time: 73 minutes.
Awards: Silver Leopard, 51st Locarno International Film Festival. Best Asian Film, 11th Tokyo International Film Festival. A moving masterwork about the harsh life of a young boy who lives and works in a brick kiln. The extreme poverty that the boy lives in has been considered to be an unpatriotic image of Iran, but only the ignorant do not know that poverty is everywhere and this film is a harsh reminder that today's world still has much poverty.

 

Daughters of the Sun (2000), Director: Maryam Shahriar, Running time: 92 minutes.


Amanagol (Altinay Ghelich Taghani), the daughter of a poor rural family in Iran, becomes "Aman", when her father shaves her head, disguises her as a boy, and dispatches her to another village to work weaving carpets. Proficient at the job, "Aman" is nonetheless exploited by the owner and isolated from all those around her. Her secret becomes jeopardized when a young co-worker, engaged to an older man, falls in love with her. 

 

Day Break (2005), Director: Hamid Rahmanian, Running time: 90 minutes.


In Iran, capital punishment is carried out according to Islamic law, which gives the family of the victim ownership of the offender's life.  Day Break, based on a compilation of true stories and shot inside Tehran s century-old prison, revolves around the imminent execution of Mansour, a man found guilty of murder. When the family of the victim repeatedly fails to show up on the appointed day, Mansours execution is postponed again and again. Stuck inside the purgatory of his own mind, he waits as time passes on without him, caught between life and death, retribution and forgiveness.

 

The Day I Became a Woman (2000), Director: Marzieh Meshkini, Running time: 78 minutes.


This is the story of women at three stages of life in Iran. The first part centers on a young girl on her ninth birthday who is told that she can no longer play with the boys she had been playing with only the day before because she is now a "woman". Told from the perspective of a nine year old "woman" who does not feel like or know what that label refers to, we see how devastatingly this affects both the girl and the boy with whom she had been friends. The second part is about a young woman who decides to enter a bicycle race against her husband's wishes. As first the husband and then increasing numbers of men from the village ride beside her to convince her to return home, the race begins to symbolize a freedom she desperately wants from the limitations which have been placed on her. Finally, the third part shows us an old woman who has come into some money and is now free to do what she wants. The way she chooses to use this freedom, however, makes one wonder just how free she is.

 

Delbaran (2001), Director: Abolfazl Jalili, Running time: 96 minutes.

Acclaimed director Abolfazl Jalili offers a compassionate story of a young Afghan refugee who lives illegally in Iran. Young Kaim drifts to the Delbaran crossing on the Afghan-Iran border, where he finds work at a coffee shop frequented by truck drivers. He feels at home in this small oasis of friendliness, though the sounds of war can be heard in the background, violent bandits prowl the roads, and opium is everywhere. As we watch Kaim run from one task to another day after day, we soon realize that we are watching a boy who is being cheated out of his childhood.

 

Deserted Station (2002), Director: Alireza Raisian, Running time: 88 minutes.


Deserted Station is the story of a photographer (Nezam Manouchehri) and his wife (Leila Hatami), a former schoolteacher, who are driving on pilgrimage to Mashad from Tehran. When their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded in an ancient, crumbling village, the husband encounters the village's sole adult male and self-appointed guardian, who also teaches the village children. As the husband accompanies the village guardian to another town to get a part for the car, his wife takes over as teacher. Although a quiet and reserved woman, she quickly develops a close bond with the women and children of the village, who instinctively notice she is suffering from a personal loss.

Kiarostami's story returns to many of his trademark themes: the clash of urban and rural cultures, the folly of dependence on technology, and the significance of women and education to the future of Iran. Director Alireza Raisian, who also made THE JOURNEY, based on a screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami, brings a sensitivity and humor that gives these themes a sense of humanism. Shot beautifully by cinematographer Mohammad Aladpoush, Deserted Station's desolate environs are visually stunning and offer the perfect frame for the subtle magic and mystery of this story. Leila Hatami's sensitive portrayal wins the Best Actress award in the 2002 Montreal International Film Festival. 

 

Divorce Iranian Style (1998), Directors: Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Running time: 80 minutes.


In a small Tehran courtroom, the stories of three strong-willed women unfold as they employ reason, charm, pleas for sympathy, anger, and even a disarming wit to win what they each desperately need—a divorce. Divorce Iranian Style offers a unique window into the impassioned but very practical business of divorce (and marriage) in the lives of three Iranian women: Jamileh, who was saved by her own son from the hands of her abusive husband; the outspoken teenaged Zibah, who proudly stands up to her 38-year-old husband and his family; and the remarried Maryam, who is desperate to regain custody of her two daughters.

 

Donya (2003), Director: Manuchehr Mosayyeri, Running time: 103 minutes.

In this breezy domest comedy, Donya (Hediyeh Tehrani) returns from America to discover that it is not easy to find a place to live in modern-day Tehran. Eventually, she hires Haji (Mohammad Reza Sharifinia), the well-to-do owner of a realty company, to help her out. Though a traditional conservative and much older than Donya, Haji falls for his attractive new client. Haji's newly stirred passions prompt him to do things he might not ordinarily do, including updating his clothing style, cutting his hair, and sending his wife and family on a vacation to get them out of the way.

 

Dress Rehearsal: The Brave Hurr's Ta'zieh (2005), Director: Naser Taghvai, Running time: 64 minutes.

From Nasser Taghvai, one of the original filmmakers of the Iranian New Wave, comes his latest documentary, Dress Rehearsal: The Brave Hurr’s Ta’zieh. This rare glimpse into Iranian culture chronicles the performance of a ta’zieh, an ancient and uniquely Iranian passion play that celebrates the glory of martyrdom for the sake of justice. Based on the life stories and fables of Islam’s prophet Mohammad, but influenced by Iranian folklore, the ta’zieh became the sole dramatic form in the world of Islam after the rise of the Shiite sect. The overall subject of any ta’zieh is the martyrdom Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad, in the desert of Karbala. Among the Imam’s comrades, each of whom is the subject of a specific ta’zieh, the story of the Brave Hurr assumes a singular place. Originally the enemy of the Imam, Hurr does an about-face after he meets the holy leader, and then joins forces to fight with him. Generally performed on the streets or in open venues, the ta’zieh "is the only original dramatic art of the Islamic world," proclaims director Taghvai. 

 

Father (1996), Director: Majid Majidi, Running time: 96 minutes.


Award winning film from 1996 directed by Majid Majidi. A 14-year-old boy is forced to provide for his family after the death of his father. He travels to the southern parts of the country. Upon his return to his hometown, he is shocked that his mother is remarried to a policeman.

 

 

A Few Kilos of Dates for a Funeral (2006), Director: Saman Salur, Running time: 85 minutes.

From one of Iran s most talented young filmmakers comes this sensitive drama about two lost souls who run a lowly gas station in a deserted area of Iran. Sadry and his new assistant struggle to eke out a living with their gas station. With few customers and little in common, they spend most of their time alone except for occasional visits by the local postman. Despite their apparent loneliness, each of the three men dream of romance and are driven to pursue impossible relationships.

With its visually stunning black and white cinematography and off-kilter compositions, A Few Kilos Of Dates For A Funeral is stylishly directed by award-winning newcomer Saman Salur. His clever mix of drama with black humor paints a fresh face on the cinema of Iran. 

 

Fifth Reaction (2003), Director: Tahmineh Milani, Running time: 106 minutes.


Modernism and tradition clash in contemporary Iran as a progressive, recently widowed teacher and her conservative, controlling father-in-law fight for custody of her two small children. According to tradition, Fereshteh should remain in her father-in-law's home with her children, which he sees as an opportunity to force her to marry his younger son, but she refuses. Afraid of losing custody of the boys, she decides to take them and disappear from her father-in-law's realm of control, aided by her women friends. The Fifth Reaction is about a nation plagued by the conflicting philosophies of hard-line religious groups and an educated, cosmopolitan population.

 

Fireworks Wednesday (2006), Director: Asghar Farhadi, Running time: 104 minutes.

All of Tehran is preparing to celebrate the traditional New Year with the festival of fire (Fireworks Wednesday), which falls on the last Tuesday night before the official New Year begins. On this auspicious evening, a young woman named Rouhi is employed by a young couple to clean their house. Sweet and naive, Rouhi is engaged to be married, but her innocence is shattered when she finds her employers household in crisis over accusations of infidelity.

Fireworks Wednesday delves into the untidy lives of contemporary Iranians to reveal the complicated relationships of its three-dimensional characters, beautifully realized by these seasoned actors. Exploring the social hierarchies of Iranian society, this film gives us a rare glimpse into the private lives of a people often misunderstood by the outside world. Fireworks Wednesday reaches beyond the political rhetoric of today's headlines to show us a society of people who must contend with problems not unlike our own.

 

The Fish Fall in Love (2005), Director: Ali Raffi, Running time: 96 minutes. 


Atieh's singular passion is food, and her small but popular restaurant on the sleepy Caspian coast of Iran is her pride and joy. But when her former fiance Aziz appears after a twenty-year absence, she and her friends believe he intends to close the restaurant. So, Atieh prepares his favorite dishes, all sinfully delicious, and serves them to Aziz one after the other, in a desperate effort to convince him not to. Loosely based on the Persian fable of Shahrazad and "A Thousand and One Nights", director Ali Raffi uses the language of food to paint a richly textured portrait of life and love in Iran.

 

Football Under Cover (2006), Directors: Ayat Najafi & David Assmann, Running time: 86 minutes.


Teheran in April 2006. Iran's national women's team and a local Berlin women's football team play their first official friendly match. The atmosphere at the stadium is super-charged with girl power. Outside the stadium, a few men peer through the fencing, trying to catch a glimpse of the proceedings, because today, men are barred from the game. Although their only desire was to play football together, it has taken the young women of both teams a whole year to get where they are today. Theirs has been a battle against testosterone, arbitrariness and oppression.

 

The Forbidden Chapter (2005), Director: Fariborz Kamkari, Running time: 90 minutes.

City of Hope... City of Friendship... City of Death..." So mutters fatigued police investigator Habib as he returns to Mashad, the holy city that guards so many memories for him. Just a cog in the Iranian justice system, he's become more and more disillusioned with the officials he serves, and his arrival in Mashad only encourages his feeling that his superiors are interested more in asserting their power than in serving justice. Yet Habib's job in the city is not to catch up with the past, but to catch the serial killer who's been butchering women in the streets at night. The trail points to the local cult of religious fanatics run by the Master--could the killer be the leader's favored, loose-canon pupil, Sayef? Layers of intrigue are increasingly revealed as Habib comes closer to the culprit, but will he find the truth before more victims fall prey? 

 

Friday's Soldiers (2003), Director: Masud Kimiai, Running time: 96 minutes.

One of the major filmmakers of Iran's New Wave, Massoud Kimiai directs this haunting drama about four soldiers who come to Tehran on leave. Accompanied by their commanding officer, the soldiers experience life-changing adventures that reveal the sights and sounds of modern-day Tehran.

 

Friendly Persuasion (2000), Director: Jamsheed Akrami, Running time: 99 minutes.

By interviewing three generations of filmmakers, documentarian Jamsheed Akrami paints a portrait of the state of Iranian cinema since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Segments focus on the role of the government in film production, the banning of Hollywood films, the censorship codes imposed under the revolutionary regime, the depiction of women and children, and how Iranian films have been received around the world.

 

The Girl in the Sneakers (Dokhtari Ba Kafsh-Haye-Katani) (2000), Director: Rasul Sadrameli, Running time: 88 minutes.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, strict laws govern public interaction between the sexes. Boys and girls who are not related can be picked up by the police for doing nothing more than simply enjoying a walk together in the park. 15-year-old Tadaie and her friend Aideen undergo such a humiliation. Tadaie’s furious parents forbid her to ever see the boy, but the spirited Tadaie refuses to give in. She decides to leave home and thus begins a fascinating odyssey through the Tehran streets that are not without danger to this sheltered, upper-middle-class girl. THE GIRL IN THE SNEAKERS tells a beautiful story of youthful rebellion and its consequences. Made without any moral judgment, it is a lovely snapshot of first love and its subsequent disappointment.  

 

Going By (2001), Director: Iraj Karimi, Running time: 86 minutes.


On any given day a variety of travelers take the road from Tehran to northern Iraq. On this particular day, four carloads of people take this main road, each for different reasons. The characters do not know each other, and their final destinations differ, but their conversations about life and death have much in common. While staying within the conventions of the road movie, director Iraj Karimi successfully adds a metaphorical dimension to the daylong journey of the characters. By turns, pleasant and profound, Going By is a remarkable debut feature for Karimi, one of Iran’s most prominent film critics.

 

Haji Washington (1982), Director: Ali Hatami, Running time: 98 minutes.


Hajji Hossein-Gholi Noori is sent to the United States, then under the presidency of Grover Cleveland, to open up the first embassy for Iran by Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar. He is sent there with one helper on this mission and soon hires three workers to maintain the embassy. It doesn't take long for him to realize that there is no real work for him there and he is forced to quit his staff and allow his helper to attend medical school in Washington D.C. Although most of the first meeting of Hajji and the President is comical, the overall tone of the film is rather elegiac in nature.

 

The Hidden Half (2001), Director: Tahmineh Milani, Running time: 108 minutes.


What came about(when viewing this movie) was a... movie about secrets, and hidden pasts, and the things and people who shape and help our lives. Just when I thought I'd seen the last of the surprises, this movie surprised me again. I don't want to give away how nice and refeshing it is to see a love story in the most innocent of expressions, no nudity, and no sex. And Iran certainly doesn't invest alot of money into their movie making budgets and it proves that you don't always need these common things to produce a really great movie. I can say this, there are some movies (Iranian films) that just lose my attention or I have to force myself to sit through, and there are others; such as The Hidden Half that you can't even imagine missing for a moment.(Reviewed by Laundan Tehrani for Amazon)

 

Hamoun (1992), Director: Dariush Mehrjui, Running time: 117 minutes.


Hamoun is a psychological comedy/drama about a bumbling Iranian intellectual, Hamid Hamoun. The film follows 24 hours in the life of Hamoun as he is trying and failing to write his dissertation about love and faith while also trying to cope with his wife Mashid, a successful artist, who wants a divorce. Hamoun's refusal to accept his collapsing reality, is both a character study and metaphor for a condition of modern urban life in Iran. In 1997, Hamoun was voted the best Iranian film ever made by a survey of Iranian film critics. Mehrjui's The Cow had previously held that honor.

 

The House Is Black (1963), Director: Forugh Farrokhzad, Running time: 20 minutes.


The film is a look at life and suffering in a leper colong and focuses on the human condition and the beauty of creation.  During the shooting she became attached to a child of two lepers, whom she later adopted.  Although the film attracted little attention outside Iran when released, it has since been recognized a landmark in Iranian film.  Reviewer Eric Henderson claims that the film paved the way for the Iranian New Wave movement.

 

Iran: Veiled Appearances, Director: Thierry Michel, Running time: 160 minutes.

Depicts contemporary Iran at a turning point in its history, exposing both an extreme fundamentalism being fostered by its leadership and the seeds for change in its youth culture.

 

Iron Island (2005), Director: Mohammad Rasoulof, Running time: 90 minutes.

A huge, abandoned oil tanker becomes its own world as squatters make their lives upon it. Presiding over this haphazard society is Captain Nemat (Ali Nassirian), a leader who's part visionary, part supply sergeant, part snake oil salesman. As he bounds up and down the tanker's halls and stairways, he charmingly persuades the families living in rusted rooms to obey his rules while he hustles the goods they all need to survive. But this microcosm is threatened from within (the ship is slowly sinking) and without (the owners want to sell it for scrap metal), forcing Nemat to seek a radical solution. Meanwhile, Nemat's protege Ahmad (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh, The Beautiful City) has fallen in love with a girl who's already promised to marry another man. While Iron Island can be read as an allegory about life in the Muslim world, life on board the tanker feels organic and follows its own internal logic, making the movie vivid and vital. The movie's political conundrums feel implacably real and have no easy or absolute solution. But Nassirian is the movie's core; he holds Iron Island together with the same unquenchable drive that Nemat uses to hold together his ship-bound kingdom. Altogether, a rich and compelling film.  (Bret Fetzer for Amazon.com)

 

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005), Director: Kayvan Mashayekh, Running time: 95 minutes.

The life and trials of legendary poet, mathematician, astronomer and warrior Omar Khayyam is told in this epic adventure praised by many of the nation's top film critics. Shot in English, this film transports the viewer to 11th century Persia, and delves into the roots of the forming Islam philosophy, and the split between pacifist Muslims and jihadists that resonates to this day. Featuring stunning locations and epic battles, set against a story of romance and intellectual discovery, The Keeper will appeal to broad audiences, especially fans of "Gladiator", "Braveheart" or "Kingdom of Heaven." 

 

Last Supper (2002), Director: Fereydoun Jeyrani, Running time: 96 minutes.

Mrs. Mashreghi, who is a prominent university professor, is divorced from her husband. She leads a happy life for a while until one her students who is almost the same age of her daughter falls in love with her; a love which is completely rejected by society.

 

Leila (1998), Director: Dariush Mehrjui, Running time: 129 minutes.

Reza and Leila, an attractive and affluent young couple deeply in love and recently married, discover that Leila is unable to conceive. Although Reza steadfastly insists that it matters not in the least, his mother feels otherwise: she is determined that her son have children and continue the family line. Invoking tradition, she convinces her daughter-in-law that Reza must, out of necessity, take a second wife to produce an heir. The heartbreak that follows is so eloquently recorded that the final outcome is "in a word, devastating." (The New York Times)

This provocative, eloquent and ultimately devastating story, from "Iran's longest-running cinematic master" (Village Voice), is a stunning portrayal of the clash between tradition and modern marriage; between manipulation and the power of love.

 

Letters in the Wind (2002), Director: Ali Reza Amini, Running time: 76 minutes.

Comparable to Full Metal Jacket, the film follows a young man as he does his military service at a camp near Teheran. He has smuggled a tiny tape recorder into the barracks and listens to the voice of a woman, sometimes allowing his buddies to listen. The tape recorder is their lifeline to a more cheerful world outside the misery of their military service. Letters in the Wind, despite being offically unable to leave Iran's borders, has become internationally acclaimed. 

 

The Lizard, Kamal Tabrizi


This very funny film pokes fun at a career criminal's attempts to disguise himself as a mullah long enough to make plans to smuggle himself across the border to freedom from prison he has just broken out of in the most unusual way! Although subtitled, there is no need to know Persian to get two hours of laughs!

 

Low Heights (2002), Director: Ebrahim Hatamikia, Running time: 115 minutes.


Based on a true story, Low Heights is an action film filled with dark humor. Ghassem (Hamid Farrokhnezhad) is a man at his wit's end and desperate to get his family out of Iran. Along with his pregnant wife, he hijacks a plane, but undercover officers onboard the flight will not let the hijacking go smoothly. His quirky family provides comic relief with the numerous tense scenes in this Fajr Film Festival Audience Award winner.

 

Marriage, Iranian Style (2006),  Director: Hassan Fathi, Running time: 110 minutes.

“This is our father’s house,” says Shirin Sar-poulaki (Shila Khodadad), the beloved girl of a trusted, influential man in the old Carpet Market in Bazaar, Haj Ebrahim (Dariush Arjmand). Shirin leads a quiet, ordinary life, but when his uncle (Saeed Kangarani) insist on and convinces her father to agree with some conditions, She begins working in an air travel agency to confront the sweet agonies of her life. She goes to work in her uniform, while her destiny comes to her for the first time. A young American boy comes to agency to buy a ticket to Shiraz, and that’s it: Love in the first sight as portrayed in any fable and fairy tale. The story has just begun; Haj Ebrahim disagrees to give her daughter’s hand to a foreigner – especially an American.

 

Maryam (2002), Director: Ramin Serry, Running time: 90 minutes. 

A gripping movie, Mariyam follows a young Iranian-American teenage girl (Mariam Parris) living in New Jersey in 1979, whose devout Muslim cousing Ali (David Ackert) comes to the U.S. to study. As Mariyam grapples with the typical high school pressures like dating and catty rivals, tensions between Ali and Mariyam's father (Shaun Toub) spring from a dark family secret. When hostages are taken at the American embassy in Iran, prejudice flares up, throwing Mariyam's life into turmoil. The story of Mariyam manages to take the crises of adolescence and socio-political conflict and make both equally vivid. Writer-director Ramin Serry skillfully grounds the culture clash between Muslim fundamentalism and conventional American morality in everyday concerns, capturing an historical moment with details that resonate powerfully. The entire cast is superb; Parris's compelling presence keeps the movie's issues immediate and personal.

 

Maxx (2005), Director: Saman Moghaddam, Running time:110 minutes.

A smash hit in Iran, Maxx is a delightful musical comedy starring a cast of fresh faces, including Farhad Ayish in the title role. In this hilarious tale of mistaken identity, Maxx, a performer in a Los Angeles nightclub, receives an invitation to participate in a musical festival in Tehran. Upon arriving in Iran, Maxx is astounded by the warm welcome and at the many invitations to important cultural events. Little does he know that his invitation was originally intended for a prominent symphony conductor with a similar name.  When authorities in Tehran discover Maxx is a rapper, chaos erupts. 

 

Men at Work (2006), Director: Mani Haghighi, Running time: 75 minutes. 

This film tells the hilarious story of four old friends who, driving back from a failed skiing trip, encounter a strange and enormous rock. The men's frivolous attempt to dislodge the rock gradually disintegrates into a tale of betrayal, defeat and renewed hope. The heroes of the film are doctors, engineers and businessmen in the throes of mid-life crises. Their middleclass problems and the absurd phallic rock venture gives rise to great humor.

 

The Mirror (1998), Director: Jafar Panahi, Running time: 95 minutes.

When a young girl becomes lost in the hustle and bustle of Tehran, her journey turns into a dazzling exercise on the nature of film itself. In this ingenious and daringly original feature, world renounced director Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, Crimson Gold) has wrapped a blunt political critique inside the layers of a deceptively simple film. 

 

A Moment of Innocence (1996), Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Running time: 75 minutes.


Released in '96 director Mohsen Makhmalbaf has created a cinematic masterpiece in this introspective semi-documentary film which provides the audience with a highly personal glimpse into real life events from his past. From the opening sequence of one solitary man walking along the train tracks as the "call to the faithful" echoes from a nearby mosque the film draws its audience into an almost surreal world containing a storyline being told by two individuals from two very different perspectives.

The storyline merges and deviates back and forth between the memory of one particular event from the past that forever effected the course of both their lives. When all is said and done one ultimately learns that while perspectives and accounts may alter with the passing of time actions and events remain unchanged. Time disappears and one becomes lost in the intelligent dialogue and exotic urban landscape of Tehran to such a degree that when the closing credits suddenly and unexpectedly appear on the screen one feels as though awakening from a dream. And like a dream one is left with much to ponder and dissect in the days that follow. This is what filmmaking is all about!  (Brian E. Erland)

 

The Mirror of the Soul: The Forough Farrokhzad Trilogy (2002), Director: Nasser Saffarian, Running time: 152 minutes.

Forough Farrokhzad, Irans most celebrated contemporary poet became a legend in her own time for her innovative and controversial poetry. In this extensive, three-part documentary, Farrokhzads life, work, and very soul are laid bare so the world can discover this remarkable artist.
Director Nasser Saffarian deftly combines interviews with family members and peers with footage of Farrokhzad herself shot by master director Bernardo Bertolucci to bring out her personality and to capture the essence of her art. Saffarian digs deep into her personal and professional life to uncover new information about this outspoken poet who pushed the boundaries of Iranian society.

This compelling documentary includes: The Green Cold, a revealing look at her personal life; The Mirror of the Soul, an exploration of her controversial, sometimes erotic poetry; and Summit of the Wave, an overview of her work in theater and film, including her groundbreaking film The House Is Black.

 

My Name is Rocky (2001), Director: Bahman Moshar, Running time: 57 minutes.

This shocking documentary, which premiered this year at the Montreal Film Festival, paints a heartbreaking picture of the growing population of runaway girls in Tehran. An unseen religious judge allows the filmmaker to record proceedings that seem to fall somewhere between a hearing and a trial. The condemnatory tone of the judge interrogating the girls is mercifully balanced by the more sympathetic questions asked by director Moshar. The film presents an unflinching account of a hopeless generation of young Iranians trying to survive in a purgatory between familial pressures and social restrictions. 

 

Mystic Iran: The Unseen World (2002), Director: Aryana Farshad, Running time: 52 minutes.


Join filmmaker Aryana Farshad on a mesmerizing journey deep into the heart of her native Iran. Shot entirely on location, this unprecedented cinematic tour reveals spiritual rites and rituals hidden for centuries. From the women's chamber of the Great Mosque, to the temple-caves in the land of Zarathustra, to the sacred dance of the Dervishes in Kurdistan, discover religious ceremonies and locations never before seen by the outside world.

 

Offside (2006), Director: Jafar Panahi, Running time: 92 minutes.


Who is that strange boy sitting quietly in the corner of a bus full of screaming fans going to the football match? In fact, this shy boy is a girl in disguise. She is not alone; women also love football in Iran. Before the game begins, she is arrested at the checkpoint and put into a holding pen by the stadium with a band of other women all dressed up as men. They will be handed over to the vice squad after the match. But before this, they will be tortured—they must endure every cheer, every shout of a game they cannot see. Worse yet, they must listen to the play-by-play account of a soldier who knows nothing about football. Yet, these young girls just won’t give up. They use every trick in the book to see the match.

Jafar Panahi’s films are often described as Iranian neo-realism. Although all of his films, including Offside, have been banned by Iran, he continues to make movies which explore the very human side of the conflicts in his native country. In the case of Offside, he used a fake name and false papers in order to get permission to shoot at an actual soccer match in Iran. As a result, Offside has a documentary feel which captures the very real humor and determination of the Iranian women–and men–who love soccer and are willing to go to extreme lengths for the opportunity to cheer on the home team.

 

Our Times (2002), Director: Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Running time: 75 minutes.


On the heels of the recent controversial elections in Iran comes this documentary from Rakshan Bani-Etemad (The May Lady), the most outspoken and respected female director working in Iran today. This fascinating documentary focuses on the Iranian elections of 2002 and the role of women in Iranian society as Bani-Etemad follows a group of women who run for office and gradually narrows her view to the plight of one woman who attempts an heroic but unsuccessful run for the presidency.

 

Paper Airplanes (1997), Director: Farhad Mehranfar, Running Time: 90 minutes.
This visually absorbing feature debut by the documentary maker Farhad Mehranfar is arguably his most charming film to date. A traveling projectionist assigned to show movies to villagers in remote areas takes his son with him to the northern region of Iran. The trip deepens the son’s understanding of his father’s work and introduces him to people and places outside of his urban cultural environment. While glorifying the magic of film as a modern medium of storytelling, The Paper Airplane also pays nostalgic homage to the vanishing cultural rituals that are threatened by the “imported” medium. 

 

Party (2007), Director: Saman Moghadam, Running time: NA.

In this searing, eviscerating social commentary from Iran, journalist Amin Haghi projects the courage and fortitude to speak out against the despotic state via contributions to Persia's most left wing publication, but he takes a fatal and seemingly irreversible misstep by publishing his later brother's critical war memoirs. The action, in fact, so offends the government that it triggers Amin's immediate imprisonment. His friends and girlfriend soon arrive to try to bail their buddy out of jail, but hit a brick wall when they discover that the funds owed far extend their means. Then one comes up with the not-so-bright idea of raising cash by renting Amin's house out for special parties. One out-of-control celebration later (replete with North American music and alcoholic beverages), and government authorities turn up to address the situation. Director Saman Moghadam uses the story as a parable, to comment unflinchingly on the political repression plaguing all levels of Persian society.

 

The Pear Tree (2009), Director: Dariush Mehrjui, Running time: 96 minutes.

In this bittersweet Iranian drama, middle-aged author Mahmoud (Homayoun Ershadi) reflects on his youth, and the story flashes back to post-WW II Iran and awkward 11-year-old Mahmoud (Mohammad Reza Shaban-Noori) at a country estate north of Tehran where the youth falls under the spell of his 14-year-old female cousin known only as M (Golshifte Farahani). As Mahmoud's infatuation increases, his adolescent dreams soar to creative, religious, and erotic heights. Decades later, a barren pear tree leads his memories back to M.

 

Persepolis (2007), Directors: Marjane Satrapi &Vincent Paronnaud, Running time:  96 minutes.

Persepolis is the poignant story of a young girl coming-of-age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine-year-old Marjane that we see a people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power—forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is senselessly executed and as bombs fall around Tehran in the Iran/Iraq war the daily fear that permeates life in Iran is palpable. As she gets older, Marjane's boldness causes her parents to worry over her continued safety. And so, at age fourteen, they make the difficult decision to send her to school in Austria. Vulnerable and alone in a strange land, she endures the typical ordeals of a teenager. In addition, Marjane has to combat being equated with the religious fundamentalism and extremism she fled her country to escape. Over time, she gains acceptance, and even experiences love, but after high school she finds herself alone and horribly homesick. Though it means putting on the veil and living in a tyrannical society, Marjane decides to return to Iran to be close to her family. After a difficult period of adjustment, she enters art school and marries, all the while continuing to speak out against the hypocrisy she witnesses. At age 24, she realizes that while she is deeply Iranian, she cannot live in Iran. She then makes the heartbreaking decision to leave her homeland for France, optimistic about her future, shaped indelibly by her past.

 

Rumi: Poet of the Heart, Director: Haydn Reiss, Running time: 90 minutes.


Rumi - Poet of the Heart is a fifty-five minute documentary that introduces us to the work of Persian poet Jelaluddin Rumi. This is accomplished through an intimate dialog with Coleman Barks, his English language translator. The work also features the narration of actress Debra Winger and sensitive observations by scholars such as Huston Smith, Robert Bly, Simone Fattal, Deepak Chopra and the Sufi mystic Sheik Jelaluddin Loras.  (Nicholas Croft)

 

Santuri: The Music Man (2007), Director: Dariush Mehrjui, Running time: 106 minutes.
Just as he's achieved enormous success, gifted and popular musician Ali's (Bahram Radan) heroin addiction takes its terrible toll in this poignant drama from Iran. Authorities ban him from performing publicly, and his wife, pianist Hanieh (Golshifteh Farahani), leaves him. Ali blames his failure on Hanieh, but as he continues to plunge toward the bottom, he must concede his own fault in his downfall. Dariush Mehrjui directs.

 

Sara (2009), Director: Dariush Mehrjui, Running time: NA

Ibsen's 19th century classic play A Doll's House is closely adapted and set in modern Iran in this unique Iranian drama. This version is set in a wealthy Tehran home and in Sarah's husband Hessam's bank. Outwardly Sara is the perfect submissive Moslem wife, but to her friend Simi she confides that she took out a loan 10 years ago from Goshtasb to help pay for her husband's medical expenses. To repay her debt, she embroiders wedding gowns. When Hessam threatens to fire Goshtasb, his bank manager, for faking a signature, Goshtasb threatens to retaliate by telling Hessam of the loan. Simi, hoping it will spare her former lover's job, thinks Hessam deserves to hear the truth and does not stop Goshtasb. Hessam is not grateful and begins to bully the bank manger. Sara watches her world fall to dust, but then awakens to her own rights.

 

Secret Ballot (2001), Director: Babak Payami, Running time: 123 minutes.


This gentle, low-key comedy follows a female civil servant of an Islamic country (presumably Iran, but specifics aren't given) as she travels around a sparsely populated island, trying to get the inhabitants to vote on election day. Her efforts are both helped and hindered by the reluctant soldier who has been assigned to accompany her--but far more significant hurdles are language barriers, deep-seated gender prejudices, and mechanical breakdowns. The civil servant struggles to maintain her faith in democratic processes in the face of indifference, antagonism, and absurdity. When someone tells her, "Voting doesn't catch fish," she has no reply, yet perseveres in her attempt to make the world better. Secret Ballot is slow-paced, but the movie's rhythms suit the world it depicts. Nassim Abdi, as the civil servant, gives a wonderfully engaging performance; her innocent, open face captures both the humor and the sadness in her struggle. (Bret Fetzer) 

 

September 11 (2002), Director: Samira Makhmalbaf, Running time: 135 minutes.

Samira Makhmalbaf, daughter of director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, one of 11 directors to contribute to this moving compilation of stories in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The result is a daring and moving global cinematic reply that forces us to look at the entire event afresh. (NY Times)

 

Siavesh (1998), Director: Sama Moghadam, Running time: 88 minute.

Rock musician Siavash is set to play in his band s first live show, when he decides to visit the tomb of his father--killed in the Iran-Iraq War--to seek his blessing. After the concert is a success, a friend reveals that Siavash s father was not martyred in the war but instead has returned to Tehran with other POWs. Distraught and confused, the young musician turns to his photojournalist girlfriend for help and support.

The directorial debut of popular filmmaker Saman Moghadam (Maxx; Café Setareh), this groundbreaking drama captures the mood of Iran just after the Iran-Iraq war in which a younger generation of Iranians was less fervent about religion than their parents and more concerned with leading a peaceful life. Originally banned by authorities, the film pushed against the barriers of censorship by featuring rock music, which was discouraged in Iran, and by showing public interaction between young men and women.

 


Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine (2000), Director: Bahman Farjami, Running time: 93 minutes.


In this audacious black comedy, Bahman Farjami, a filmmaker who has not directed for twenty years due to censorship, experiences a strange set of coincidences that convince him the Angel of Death must be near. As a means of confronting his fears, he decides to make a film about his own funeral. As he researches the funeral rites of his country and culture, Farjami glimpses a side of Iranian society which he was not aware of. In the midst of this, his view is shaded by his own mounting family problems. Through a series of fiascos leading to comic and cathartic vision of his own disastrous funeral, he goes on an emotional roller-coaster ride that culminates in a Fellini-esque dream so intense that it may lead to his actual death.

 

A Snake's Tail (Bijan Daneshmand) (2006), Director: Bijan Daneshmand, Running time: 74 minutes. 

Originally made as an experiment of various scenes of a higher budget film project. Directed by Bijan Daneshmand and shot by Paul Cronin. Set in London, the film is about the friendship between Kami, a forty year old westernised Iranian businessman whose father has passed away, and Agha, the Mullah or Priest who conducts the burial ceremony. We see how Agha, an opium addict with a penchant for Persian Sufi poetry, takes the distraught Kami under his wings. During their weekly meetings Agha not only exposes Kami to the Spiritual poetry of Rumi and Hafiz but to the euphoric pleasures of opium, the preferred drug of Iranians since time immemorial.

 

Soul Mate (2004), Director: Mehdi Fakhim-zadeh, Running time: 96 minutes.

From Iranian actor-director Mehdi Fakhim-zadeh comes this searing drama about Behrouz, a man who has recently been released from an asylum and has had several bouts of madness. Behrouz accidentally meets Shirin, and the pair impulsively decide to get married, beginning a series of life adventures for the odd couple. Soul Mate stars popular Iranian actress Roya Nounahali. 

 

The Suitors (1988), Director: Ghasem Ebrahimian, Running time: 106 minutes.

A well-to-do Iranian, Haji, arrives in Manhattan from Teheran with his reluctant new bride. Overcome by nostalgia for the old country, his closest friends hold a traditional feast. But a bizarre series of events ends with Haji's death—leaving behind a beautiful, bewildered widow... and four zealous suitors.

 

Tambourine (2008), Director: Parisa Bakhtavar, Running time: 113 minutes.

A new resident launches a wave of confusion and misunderstanding among the tenants of a luxury apartment block in this comedy from Iran. Shirin (Baran Kosari) borrows her father's car one day and despite great care on her part, she ends up in an auto accident and has no money to pay for the repairs. Needing help, Shirin turns to her friend Mohammad (Saber Abbar), who makes his living selling pirated videos. Mohammad lives in a newly opened apartment complex in Tehran, where one of his best customers, arty film buff Khosro (Nima Shahrokshahi), lives with his crotchety and disapproving father Abdollazadeh (Omid Rouhani) and his mother (Gohare Kheirandish), who still does their washing by hand, drying the clothes by hanging them from the satellite dishes on the roof. Shirin moves into Mohammad's flat for a spell, and she strikes up a friendship with one of his neighbors, a cheerful TV addict named Sholeh (Bahareh Rahnama). Meanwhile, Mohammad thinks he's lucked into a lucrative new career when he takes a job doing maintenance on satellite TV dishes, but the job doesn't work out quite as he expected, while Shirin unwittingly launches a clash of cultures among her new neighbors. Dayereh Hamzi (aka Tambourine) was the first theatrical feature film from director Parisa Bakhtavar, who previously distinguished himself working in television. Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

 

Taste of Cherry (1997), Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Running time: 95 minutes.


Driving through the streets of Tehran, Mister Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) is looking for someone to bury him when he commits suicide—or rescue him if he fails. But it's difficult to find anyone who will help. A taxidermist (Abdolrahman Bagheri) eventually agrees, mostly so he can use the money to care for his sick son. But there's another reason -- he once attempted suicide himself. This film won top honors at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

 

Ten (2002), Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Running time: 94 minutes.

World-renowned Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Through the Olive Trees) has created a deceptively simple work—shot on digital video within the confines of a single vehicle—that brings the intricate nature of Iran’s sexual and social politics into sharp focus. Seen through the eyes of a beautiful, chador-clad divorcée, the film catches her impromptu conversations with various female passengers (and her imperious young son) as she navigates Tehran’s congested and vibrant streets over the course of several days. As Kiarostami’s "dashboard cam" eavesdrops on these extraordinary and moving stories of sex, divorce, love and religion, an entirely original and fascinating portrait of modern Iran emerges.

 

Tobeh Nasuh, Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Running time: 100 minutes.

Lotf-ali Khan whom is a retired bank employee and attached to his family has a heart-failure one night at home. His family take him to the cemetery as they think that he is dead but he gains consciousness before they bury him and his family run away of fright. No matter how much Lotf-ali Khan shouts for help so that his family help him and take him out of the cemetery, it is useless. Eventually when Lotf-ali Khan returns home he does not feel the same attachment to his family anymore. He tries to compensate for his past, a past that he was ignorant towards people. But this is very difficult. He has displeased a thousand of people in his life.

 

The Tree Of Life (Derakht-e-jan) (1998), Director: Farhad Mehranfar, Running time: 11 minutes.
A beautiful setting, a rich story that takes place with a nomadic tribe who live in the misty forests of Talesh mountains in the spectacular scenic Gilan province. The film shows the ceremonies and belief of these fascinating tribal people who still live according to the ancient customs and lifestyle which synchronizes with the seasons.

 

Twilight (2003), Director: Hassan Hedayat, Running time: 101 minutes.

Ezzatollah Entezami, one of Iranian cinema’s most honored actors, heads a strong cast as a veteran police inspector who begins to feel the effect of his life’s work. Overcome with loneliness and his own impending mortality, he begins to imagine seeing his dead wife as he investigates a murder case involving an elderly drug addict who washed up on a beach. Unraveling the mystery leads the weary detective on a path of self discovery. Entezami (Once Upon a Time Cinema; The Cow) offers one of the most poignant, compelling performances of an impressive career that spans the entirety of Iran’s contemporary cinema movement.

 

Two Women (2000), Director: Tahmineh Milani, Running time: 96 minutes.


Country girl Fereshteh and city girl Roya, schoolmates at Tehran University in the early '80s, become friends when the former tutors the latter to pay her way through architectural school. Their friendship and innocent fun are clouded only by the presence of a young man who stalks the pretty Fereshteh, demanding she marry him. She brushes him off and the girls feel strong enough to disregard his advances, until one day he throws a bottle of acid at Fereshteh's cousin, mistaking him for her boyfriend. Blaming her for brining disgrace onto the family, Fereshteh' s father forces her to return home from university, which has been closed due to the turmoil following the Islamic revolution anyway. 

 

Under the Moonlight (2001), Director: Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi, Running time: 96 minutes.


Seyyed Hassan, a young seminary student, is preparing to don the clerical attire. While the other students are also busy with similar preparations, Seyyed Hassan's supplies are stolen by a small boy. To identify the culprit, Seyyed Hassan sets out for the suburban area where he meets people who have never met a cleric and know nothing about the clerical profession. Under such unfamiliar circumstances, Seyyed Hassan acquires a new understanding of society and human beings. 

 

Under the Skin of the City (2001), Director: Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Running time: 93 minutes.


Tuba, a mother of four, is a hard-working factory worker who is faced with unexpected challenges that threaten her family and way of life. Her oldest son, Abbas works to obtain a foreign work visa, which he hopes will allow him the opportunity to provide more for his family, and win the affections of a pretty office girl. To make his final payment, he sells the family home, but when his travel plans fall apart, Tuba is forced to take drastic measures to save her house and her son. Widely regarded as the "First Lady of Iranian Cinema," Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's first U.S. release is a stirring and powerful family drama that provides a fresh and provocative vision of Iranian urban society. 

 

Unveiled (2005), Director: Angelina Maccarone, Running time: 97 minutes.

Fabria, prosecuted in Iran because of her love affair with another woman, flees to Germany. Her application for asylum is turned down-but her desperate prospects are improved by the suicide of her fellow inmate Siamak. She assumes his identity and, using his temporary permit of sojourn, heads off to a provincial village. At first glance, her survival seems to be assured, but in the refugee hostel, she is obliged to uphold her male disguise in cramped quarters and a single mistake could blow her cover. In order to pay for forged documents, she takes an illegal job in a sauerkraut factory, where she meets Anne, who is very solicitous about Siamak’s well-being and derives some kind of pleasure from the strange foreigner. While spending more and more time together, they become dangerously close and Anne begins to suspect Fariba’s true identity, and Fariba’s fate falls into danger when she is faced with being forced to return to Iran.

 

Unwanted Woman (2005), Director: Tahmineh Milani, Running time: 103 minutes.


From acclaimed director Tahmineh Milani comes this searing tale about the struggles of women in modern-day Iran. Poor Sima puts up with her philandering and abusive husband, Ahmad. He is so blatant with his indiscretions that he asks Sima to cover for him when he plans a trip with his girlfriend Saba. In an Iran where unmarried couples can be arrested for fraternizing in public, Ahmad needs Sima to pretend that Saba is his cousin. Sima and the couple’s young daughter accompany Ahmad and Saba on their trip—a humiliating situation for the devoted wife and mother. But, a surprising turn awaits the trio when they stop in a town where a man has just murdered his wife for her alleged affair. Marila Zarei (The Fifth Reaction) and Amin Hayayee (Coma), two of Iran’s newest stars--shine in this controversial drama.

 

The Visit (2008), Director: Marc Henrich, Running time: 43 minutes.

What does it mean to be Iranian in the United States? This lyrical short drama offers an insightful glimpse into the world of one Iranian man that will resonate with all immigrants.

Building a new life in San Francisco and leaving his family far behind, Hamid (Farid Nabavi) is in love with his beautiful live-in girlfriend May (Irina Yuen), though he is unwilling to commit to her. When Hamid's traditional parents arrive for a surprise visit from Iran, he faces a moment of truth. Should he fulfill his parents' wishes and return to Iran? Or will he choose his own new path and remain in the US?  In Farsi and English with English subtitles.

 

The White Balloon (1995), Director: Jafar Panahi, Running time: 85 minutes.


 Razieh wants a fat goldfish for the Iranian New Years celebration instead of the skinny ones in her family's pond at home, because the fat fish looks like it's dancing when it swims. After many attempts she and her brother convince their mother to give them her last bit of money. Between their home and the fish store, Razieh loses the money.  She finds it, but it is temptingly just out of her reach.

 

The Willow Tree (2005), Director: Majid Majidi, Running time: 96 minutes.

Blind since childhood, Youssef has a devoted wife, loving daughter, and successful university career, but his affliction fills him with secret torment. As if in answer to his prayers, a clinic restores his sight - a miracle that is double-edged. Although this new world of sight and color floods him with ecstasy - the breathtaking images seen through his reawakened eyes include a dazzling vista of snow-blanketed hills, a shower of molten gold sparks in a jewelry foundry, an array of lollipop lights behind a rain-speckled car window - it also plunges him into a labyrinth of confusions and temptations. A pretty student begins to eclipse his previously invisible wife; he silently watches a subway pickpocket, who fixes him with a look of withering complicity. Eager to claim the lost life he feels he is owed but unable to take the next step, Youssef is inflamed with possibility and paralyzed with egoism.

A resonant metaphor for life s second chances and a powerful parable of sight and insight, The Willow Tree s vivid imagery and emotional immediacy makes this Majid Majidi’s most mature and ambitious film to date.

 

Wind Temple (2003), Director: Kamal Tabrizi, Running time: 111 minutes. 

Ten-year-old Sakura (Miyu Yagyu) travels with her father Makoto (Takaaki Enoki) from Japan, to Isfahan, Iran, to pick up a Persian carpet designed by her late mother. Although warmly greeted by Makoto’s friend Akbar (Reza Kianian), it soon becomes clear that the carpet – needed in 20 days’ time for a Japanese street-festival – has not even been started. Coming to the rescue is Ruzbeh (Farboud Ahmadjo), Akbar’s tenacious and streetwise 11-year-old nephew, who mobilises the locals into a sort of carpet-weaving Task Force in a bid to get the job done. This Iranian-Japanese co-production fittingly celebrates cross-cultural collaboration as a way of getting results and, perhaps more importantly, enriching each other’s traditional way of life. Although essentially a conventional fish-out-of-water story, director Kamal Tabrizi brings a variety of tones and textures to the film to keep it from following a predictable pattern. Vibrant, good-natured and with a deeply-embedded emotional thread running throughout, this is an accessible family film with much to offer fans of Iranian cinema, fans of Japanese cinema and fans of cinema full-stop.

 

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), Director: Abbas Kiarostami, Running time: 118 minutes.


The movies of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami defy the expectations of anyone raised on Hollywood or even European films. The Wind Will Carry Us, for example, is about a filmmaker who comes to a small village where an old woman is dying, hoping to document a harsh ritual of mourning practiced by the villagers. Unfortunately for him, the invalid clings to life, and he spends most of his time driving up and down a mountainside because his cell phone only gets good reception at the top. But while he waits and frets, around him the life of the village continues, and this vitality—captured in moments that seem like a diversion from the movie's supposed –is fundamentally what The Wind Will Carry Us is about. What seems dull one moment will suddenly become a rich and subtle expression of human behavior. A strikingly different cinematic experience.  (Bret Fetzer for Amazon.com)

 

Woman On Fire (2003), Director: Zia Mojabi, Running time: NA.

Simin is a hardworking humorless Iranian-American wife without much appreciation for the finer things who lives with her husband, the aloof and artistic Bijan, and their young son, a piano prodigy. Simin's entire reason for living and working is the love of her husband but he soon falls in love with a woman who is much more akin to himself culturally and class wise. Simin however is not prepared to let go of her man.

"Woman on Fire is based on the Greek tragedy Medea. By definition then, it is like a train wreck: the audience watches the protagonists as they stumble onto the inescapable horrific end," Zia Mojabi.

 

Women's Prison (2002), Director: Manijeh Hekmat, Running Time: 106 minutes.

Banned in Iran, this taboo-breaking film uses the claustrophobic life of women behind bars as a metaphor for Iranian society since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mitra, in prison for killing her violent stepfather, confronts new warden Tahereh on the eve of a riot, fearlessly challenging her dogmatic views - which, over time, began to change.

 

Zarin (2005), Director: Shirin Neshat, Running time: NA.

In Zarin, a young woman hides from the crowds and the rituals, vulnerable and in fear. The change corresponds to a video artist more and more at home with cinematic convention. She has become a storyteller—and a dangerously polished one at that. Neshat is still exploring video's space between the movie theater and the art gallery.  Reviews are very mixed on this art movie.

 

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