A good friend of mine died unexpectedly this week, on Wednesday. His wake is tomorrow, and the funeral is Monday, so I will not be available to receive any more Word docs from those of you out there who don’t have blogs and who want to participate. If you want me to post something on my site, please get it to me TODAY – otherwise it will languish in my Inbox. However: I will post whatever you send me when I am back to my site on Tuesday – it’s not like I will refuse your contribution, it’s just that it won’t be seen by me until Tuesday. Additionally, because of this tragedy, Jake Cole has kindly agreed to monitor the comments section on Sunday (tomorrow) for any links that come in, and will be adding them to this ongoing list. So please keep the links coming! Tomorrow, Jake Cole is in charge here. Jake, thank you so much for stepping up. Much appreciated.
Welcome to the Iranian Film Blogathon which will be going on here on my site this week, from February 21 to February 27. I have been a fan of Iranian cinema for years now, and have been writing about it on my site from Day One. In light of Jafar Panahi’s open letter to Isabella Rossellini, the Berlinale, and all of us and his plea for artistic freedom, I felt an urgent need to “do something”, even if it was just to create a specific space where we can celebrate the contributions of Iran to the world of film-making.
Dictatorships and tyranny require privacy. Let us, in our own small way, deny them that privacy.
Coincidentally, the Asia Society has quickly put together a film series tribute to Panahi that will be going on in New York starting this week and going through March 11. Panahi’s films will be shown, as well as a film by director Mohammad Rasoulof, who received the same sentence Panahi did. There will be panel discussions and QAs (and a possible webcast). Check out that link for the schedule of events. If you live in the New York area, please try and make it to some of those screenings. I will be there!
1. If you would like to promote, please feel free to take the vertical banner at the top of this post. It was created on the fly by my good friend Mark – and is the poster-image for Jafar Panahi’s Offside. (The header-image on my site was also created by Mark, and is a screengrab from The Day I Became a Woman (2000), directed by Marziyeh Meshkini.)
2. To keep it simple, just leave a link to what you have written in the comments section, and I will make sure to pull it out and promote.
3. If you do not have a blog, and would like to participate (I already have 2 or 3 of those people), just write up whatever you want, and send it to me – as a Word Doc or in an email, and I will re-format and post on my site. **UPDATE TO THIS**: If #3 is your situation, then please get your Word docs to me TODAY. I will not be available tomorrow. Thank you.
I will leave this post at the top of the page for the duration of the week, and will add links to it as they come in.
Iranian Film Blogathon Links
Memo To: Iran is an open-letter to Iran from Kent Adamson, discussing their treatment of not only artists but the Kurds, one of Kent’s passions and long-time interests. He weaves in his thoughts about Bahman Ghobadi’s 2006 Mozart’s-Requiem-inspired Half Moon, a beautiful haunting film. Thank you so much, Kent, for bringing your knowledge of the Kurds into this blogathon.
Photos from Berlin: Where is Jafar Panahi? Film critic Kevin Lee was in Berlin for the Berlinale, and sent me the following photos he took – showing the omnipresent nature of Panahi’s presence/absence at the Berlinale.
A Call for Fairness: Jafar Panahi’s Offside. Alli is a long-time reader of my site. I am not sure if she has seen a film from Iran before, but she was inspired by Panahi’s plight to watch Offside and write up her thoughts. I said from the beginning that films from Iran are not just for the “experts” to parse and explain to the rest of us. They are, like all films, for everyone. Sometimes people can write about Iranian film in a heavy-handed way (I include myself) that perhaps makes the films sound too serious or opaque, or like you need a Masters in Middle East Studies in order to understand them. NOT SO. I so wanted to get some first-time responses to Iranian film for this blogathon – it’s part of spreading the word – and so I am so grateful to Alli for taking up the challenge.
A Unique Copy: On Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy. Bamshad wrote up a thoughtful essay on Kiarostami’s latest film which has just made me ache to see it all over again. Thank you so much, Bamshad!
My good blog-buddy Jake Cole watched Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold, a jewelry-heist movie, really, that becomes so much more, with one of the darkest openings of a film in recent memory. Jake is brilliant on all of the swirling undercurrents going on in this terrific film.
My first contribution is a review of The Day I Became A Woman (thrillingly filmed, brutal and beautiful), from 2000. It is director Marziyeh Meshkini’s debut as a film-maker. Helluva film.
Just Another Film Buff joins the fray with a fascinating review of Colours, an early short film from 1976 (pre-Revolution!) by legendary Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. Clip of the film included.
Anthony Kaufman over at IndieWIRE gives the Iranian Film Blogathon a nice shoutout (many thanks) and he includes many links to interviews he has done with Jafar Panahi and other Iranian filmmakers.
Here is a link of one of my pieces that is a couple of years old, but I wanted to include it. In 2007 I reviewed Fireworks Wednesday, directed by Asghar Farhadi for House Next Door when I was covering the Tribeca Film Festival. It is a domestic melodrama about infidelity and marriage with pointed class and gender-imbalance critiques woven into it. Not as well known as some of the other films, but definitely worth checking out. (Both lead actresses, by the way, Hedye Tehrani as well as Taraneh Alidoosti also appear in Kiarostami’s homage to Iranian actresses and the female face in general, Shirin.)
Phil, over at a Vagabond’s Sketchbook has written a beautiful piece about the first Iranian film he saw – Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us. Phil writes, “And so, amongst the invisible, we listen closer to conversation it seems. And what we hear is poetry – literally. Iranians often sprinkle poetry into everyday conversation, and this film has a generous heaping, including the film’s title from the legendary Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzād (1935-67).” Please go read the rest.
I take a look at Siavash, the quiet and powerful anti-war film from director Saman Moghaddam (starring Hedye Tehrani, mentioned before, one of my faves).
Ed Howard writes about Jafar Panahi’s wonderful film The Mirror, and his review really captures the frenetic energy and clash of sounds (as well as the swirl of thematic elements) in that movie. Also, his last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much, Ed. I hope a lot of people watch this movie.
Subashini at The Blog of Disquiet has written a fantastic piece on Jafar Panahi’s Offside. Great analysis, great observations. Thank you, Subashini!
Another terrific entry from Just Another Film Buff, this time on Kiarostami’s The Report (1977).
My friend Ted weighs in with a tremendously moving essay on Kiarostami’s Shirin (2008). What I love so much about it is Ted’s description of his own process, moving through the stages of how he responded to the film. I wish more critics would leave themselves open like that: “I felt this … but then later, I felt this … ” etc. Ted is an amazing theatre and opera director (I should know!), not to mention an incredible acting teacher, and I was so looking forward to hearing his thoughts on Kiarostami’s mediation on performance and audience. However: Ted, being amazing, took it to a whole other level. Thank you so much, friend.
My good blog-friend Peter Nellhaus writes about his personal history with Iranian films, providing links to pieces he has written in the past (movie reviews – of Crimson Gold and Close Up, as well as a review of 2 books about the history of cinema in Iran.)
Weeping Sam joins the Blogathon with a list of his 10 favorite Iranian films. I love lists like this. First of all, it provides an insight into the person writing the list. I enjoy “getting to know” people through reading their “lists”. Second of all, a list like this one inevitably has some surprises on it. Many of these films are well-known to me, but others are not. Looks like I need to see A Moment of Innocence as soon as I possibly can. Thank you so much for participating, WS!
I review Maryam Shahriar’s debut film (and only film, thus far) Daughters of the Sun. A beautifully-shot brutal tale, with overt symbolism (too overt), but nevertheless: a film to revel in, even as you cringe at the harshness of the circumstances. Wonderful acting as well. Well worth it.
Amber Wilkinson from Eye for Film sent me a bunch of links to things she has written about Iranian film in the past. Since we don’t have any documentaries yet in the blogathon, I’d like to point you in that direction: Here is her review of Iran: Voices of the Unheard, as well as her thoughts on the phenomenal Divorce Iranian-Style. I saw that last one in a small theatre here in New York, years ago, haven’t seen it since, and feel like I still remember it almost shot-for-shot.
Chale Nafus, Director of Programming of the Austin Film Society, sent me the program notes for the AFS’s showing of Mohammad Rasoulof’s The White Meadows, which happened last night in Austin. I am so happy to have this addition because Rasoulof received the same sentence as Panahi but he is not as famous, therefore not as known. Panahi edited The White Meadows, and I am dying to see it. The Asia Society is showing it this weekend in New York, and I will be there. But for now, I am thrilled to have this addition to the Blogathon. Very important to remember that it is not just Panahi who was sentenced – but Rasoulof (and many other anonymous others). Thank you, Chale! The movie sounds amazing.
Chess fans, animation fans, comedy fans, war-strategy fans, whatever kind of fan you are, you will not want to miss this post from Just Another Film Buff (the third one so far from this prolific writer!) on Ali Akbar Sadeghi’s animated short The Rook (1974). I just watched the film (it’s 10 minutes long) – an animated version of a chess game – and laughed so hard tears came into my eyes.
Drew, over at The Blue Vial, joins the Blogathon with a review of a film I have not seen but now must: The Silence (1998), directed by Iranian great Mohsen Makhmalbaf. I was hoping someone would review one of Makhmalbaf’s films, and this is a stellar job by Drew. Makhmalbaf is married to Marziyeh Meshkini, another director (and writer and also sometime-actress), and I reviewed Meshkini’s directorial debut The Day I Became a Woman here. What a powerhouse couple. Thank you so much, Drew – your review is beautiful.
Most of the films from Iran that reach our shores are the ones made by their world-famous auteurs, or the films that have explicit political content and perhaps a controversy surrounding it (it was banned in Iran, etc.) But there is so much more going on: comedies, dramas, crime thrillers, films about domestic life, workplace life, screwballs – many of them huge popular hits in Iran. These may seem “lighter” or more fluffy – the equivalent of our summer blockbusters, or “Important Issues” movies – but I wanted to point some of those out too, many of which are available on Netflix. The stereotype of the Iranian film-maker as a giant poetic artiste obviously does them proud, but what also does Iran proud is their movie-making drive, in general. I review The Girl in the Sneakers (1999), which is a simple tale of a teenage girl in love for the first time. If it was made by an American film-maker, many critics probably wouldn’t give it the time of day. Or they might review it begrudgingly. It’s a sweet movie, with a very very dark underbelly, and is about the most universal of experiences: Young love. I hope you check it out. The voices in Iran are many and diverse.
Speaking of diversity, I am so thrilled that Bamshad has reviewed two current releases from Iran – The Other and The Orion – both from 2010. Look at the topics covered in these films. Fascinating. Both of these are already Must-Sees on my ever-growing list. Thank you, Bamshad!
The fourth review from Just Another Film Buff for this Iranian Film Blogathon covers Mohammad Ali-Talebi’s 1999 film A Bag of Rice. JAFB gives very good context for the film (and others like it), in terms of the stamp-of-approval such films often get from the Ministry of Culture, and is a nice counterweight to all of the arthouse films being covered in this blogathon.
I review Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi’s film No One Knows About Persian Cats, which came out to much fanfare in 2009.
Jake Cole at Not Just Movies comes up big with a moving review of Leila, directed by Dariush Mehrjui. It is one of my favorite Iranian films, hilarious at times, shattering at other times, with magnificent acting and terrific well-drawn characters. I read Jake’s review eagerly, voraciously even, so excited to hear someone else’s thoughts about it. He nails it. See this movie.
Just Another Film Buff has written a review of Ebrahim Golestan’s documentary A Fire (1961), which is back in the dark ages of film-making in Iran. I have been hoping we would have more reviews of documentaries (a pet interest of mine) for the Blogathon, so I thank you so much, JAFB. I will definitely check it out. It sounds harrowing.
Michael Pattison from idFilm has written a compilation post of many of the Iranian films he has seen recently – from Dariush Mehrju’s magnificent The Cow to Jafar Panahi’s gritty brutal street-drama The Circle, with a bunch more in between. Thanks for participating in the blogathon. I hope you read many of the pieces linked here. I am blown away by the richness of the response and am very glad I decided to put this thing together at the last-minute. I’ve been writing about these films for years, and it is so nice to meet a bunch of new people also passionate about them.
I use the mainly-maudlin soap opera of Hemlock as an excuse to sing the praises of one of my favorite actresses: Hedye Tehrani. I love the great films from the big-wig auteurs, they were my introduction to the cinema of Iran – but sometimes these second or third-tier films have far more interest. And Hedye Tehrani would rock the house in a vacuum-cleaner commercial.
My good friend Cara recently watched Jafar Panahi’s exhilarating 2006 movie Offside (at my insistence. I basically sent her a copy with a note in all caps saying, WATCH THIS!”) and wrote up her thoughts on it for the Blogathon. I found her review very moving, and it made me want to watch the film again. Coincidentally, I am going to see it today at the Asia Society here in New York, and I will be keeping her observations in mind, looking for them. It’s so great to see a film you love through a friend’s eyes. It’s a huge gift. Thank you, Cara!
Just Another Film Buff, who has contributed a post a day to this Blogathon (you are amazing!) has put up an incredible review of a movie I MUST see: Daryush Shokof’s anti-Ahmadinejad screed Iran Zendan (Iran Prison) from 2010. JAFB refers to Shokof’s films as “my holy grail for a long time now”, and Shokof’s political scream of anger about the 2009 protests and the crackdown and torture is now up in clip-form at JAFB’s wonderful site. Who knows how long the clip will be available – now’s your chance.
This is not an entry in the Blogathon but I had to highlight it. As everyone knows, tomorrow night is the Oscar broadcast. I was nervous that Panahi would never be mentioned, that the stars and directors present would forget a fellow imprisoned artist. Oh me, of little faith. Director Paul Haggis is calling on people to wear white ribbons to the broadcast to support Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, the two imprisoned directors.
Though Haggis does not know Panahi and Rasoulof personally, and the Iranian government is notoriously resistant to outside pressure, he said he felt compelled do to something when he heard the news.
Gestures like this matter, and do not let the cynics tell you different. And believe me, I have heard from some cynics over this past week, one in particular. I refer to that critic as “Neville Chamberlain” now, just so he knows (and I know he’s still reading!) what I think of him. So thank you, Mr. Haggis. I imagine there are still many many people out there who have no idea what has happened to Panahi and Rasoulof, and millions of people will watch that broadcast. Unfortunately, I will not be one of them, but I am very glad to hear of this gesture of support.
Jake Cole‘s latest contribution to the Blogathon, an examination of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s 1996 movie A Moment of Innocence gave me chills. Too many good quotes to excerpt, just go read the whole thing – with the understanding that there is a spoiler.
My new friend John Levy (I actually consider anyone a “friend for life” who can engage with me about a movie like Dogfight as we just did, at length – so get ready, John, we’re friends for life, buddy, mkay?) has just thrilled me no end by sending me a link to something he wrote early in February, in response to the news of Panahi’s sentence. It thrills me because of his eloquence, but it also thrills me because it is a tribute to an ACTOR, the first one in this Blogathon (although I tried to do my part with my ravings about Hedye Tehrani.) John writes about an actor legendary in Iran, and unknown to most of us, living in exile. A thrilling piece, John: Lions of Exile: Searching for Iranian actor Berhouz Vossoughi. John even relates some of Vossoughi’s intuitive process as an actor, how he prepared for his roles, how he immersed himself in his characters. Fantastic.
Kent Adamson watched the ruthless and emotionally terrifying Black Tape: A Tehran Diary, the Videotape Fariborz Kamkari Found in the Garbage, the little-known debut feature of director Fariborz Kamkari. I hesitate to say more about it. Please read Kent’s excellent piece, which really gives a feel for the sex-charged violent nightmare of that movie. A movie that acts on the viewer like a vise. Yes, read Kent’s piece, but better yet: see the movie.
Sean Axmaker who heads up Parallax View, sent me this review he wrote of Abbas Kiarostami’s fascinating meditation on reality, role-playing and cinema, Close-Up (1989). Sean’s review commemorates the deluxe Criterion release of the film. I also want to thank Sean, as well as Bruce Reid, for promoting the Blogathon on Parallax. Lots of people have promoted the Blogathon and you all have my deepest thanks, but there was something about the wording of this one that got to me. Please go check out Sean’s piece, and for God’s sake, see Close-Up.
Just Another Film Buff has not only contributed numerous pieces for this blogathon, he has also been so kind as to provide links to many of the films he’s discussed. Today, he’s uploaded an interview with Jafar Panahi regarding his turn of the millennium masterpiece, The Circle. Panahi discusses his creative process, the thematic richness of the film and some of its more daring political content. JAFB has contributed daily to the blogathon, and it’s only fitting that he should finally come to Panahi, the inspiration for this event. Many thanks.
Jason Bellamy, one of the best bloggers on the Web, has penned a piece for The Day I Became a Woman, the debut feature from Marzieh Meshkini. I — and this is Jake speaking — have yet to see the film, but all the reviews that have come in for it have shot the film to the top of my to-watch list. Jason has made it sound as beautiful and resonant as the others.
Weeping Sam returns with a piece on the use of sound and image in Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin and Jafar Panahi’s The Mirror. Sam has picked two magnificent films for discussion, and he eloquently peels apart the beauty of both in only a few words. Thanks for your contribution, Sam.
Negar Mottahedeh posted a link to a beautiful piece she has written and it got caught in my Spam filter for some reason (this is Sheila, I’m back now, it’s Monday). I have rescued it. She has a lovely piece (with a couple of clips) about Kiarostami’s Five, and his use of sound. She ends her post with a beautiful quote that brings all of these thoughts together. Thank you so much for contributing, Negar.