Stories from the outside

Behind the rumbles of a new war against the “axis of evil” (in the rhetoric of President Bush) a series of five films is surfacing at the U Film Society as a background look beyond the network news bites — at Afghan refugees in Iran, the condition of Muslim women, pre-Black Hawk Down Somalia, racial profiling of Arabs, and an untold story about containing and removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Labeled “war stories,” the series, including both fiction and documentaries, runs through February and early March at the UFS Bell Museum Auditorium, l7th and University Avenue SE.

Playing 7:l5pm tonight and tomorrow and 9:l5pm Friday, Saturday, is Djomeh, a Cannes festival prizewinner (“best feature debut”), the realistic and comic story of a young Afghan refugee who flees a troubled past only to be greeted with cold indifference in the small Iranian mountain village where he works on a tiny dairy (there are some 3 million Afghan refugees now in Iran, so says United Nations statistics). His loneliness is reinforced by rigid marriage customs he discovers when he has his eye on the young clerk at village grocery store. Directed by Hassan Yektapanah, a former assistant to acclaimed Iranian father figure Abbas Kiarostami, the film transcends refugee boundaries for a tender reflection on universal themes.

Another Iranian film, The Day I Became a Woman, combines stark realism and surrealistic fantasy in laying out the problems of being a woman imprisoned in a closed Muslim world, via three stories that move from youth to old age. The film by Marziyeh Meshkini, wife of Kandahar director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (don’t let the tongue-twisting names deter you) is another brilliant example of why the strong narrative rhythms, atypical characterizations and the non-Hollywood style of many Iranian films have won so many prizes. Film shows 3 and 5 p.m. Sat., Sun., Feb. l6, l7, 23, 24 at the Bell Museum Auditorium.

To refute the alleged racist take against the Oscar-touted Black Hawk Down, and the ill-fated result of the U.S. attempt in l993 to bring food relief to warlord-ridden Mogadishu, another view of life in Somalia, Love Letter From Somalia (one of the rare films made there before a l991 coup toppled pro-Soviet dictator Mohammed Siad Barre), harks back to a normal Mogadishu. The East African nation long before Islamic fundamentalism and a breeding ground for terrorism set in, is seen in French director Frederic Mitterand’s impressionistic voyage (in the form of a nostalgic love letter to a friend remaining in Somalia.) This “interior documentary” shows you melancholy but eye-opening vistas of supposedly the poorest country in the world, driven by a military regime in ongoing battles with Ethiopia, women in bikinis on the beaches of Mogadishu as well as in the army, and newsreels of the Eighties — backgrounds of an estimated l0,000 to 40,000 immigrants to the Twin Cities.

The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein, by independent American director John Gianvito, whose trio of stories resurrects the Gulf War experience on the Iraqi population, will screen 7:15 pm Fri. through Thurs. Feb.22-28.

CNN and Fox Network journalist Scott Ritter will be on hand to present In Shifting Sands, 3 and 5 pm. Sat., Sun. Mar.2, 3, his new investigative 90-minute documentary on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the “untold story” of UN weapons inspectors containing and attempting to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

-Al Milgrom


Check for further details or call 627-4430.

Al Milgrom is the director of the U Film Society