WDir. Jafar Panahi
e all know the stereotypes of international films. Whenever someone talks about international movies images of dour French women smoking constantly and talking about or sometimes just portraying great ennui are conjured. Maybe we see an Italian man with the weight of the world showing on his brow, or a German cityscape with such great contrasts of light and shadow as to render the whole thing completely surreal. What is often not immediately brought to mind is the Middle East, but it should be.
Iran has been the darling of the international film scene for a long time now. The country seems to routinely not just send films to the biggest festivals, but also to clean up at award time.
Directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Majidi and at least a few members of the Makhmalbaf family have all become staples of the art house set, and are taking their place among the European, American and other greats in the pantheon of directors.
Jafar Panahi, who has collaborated with Kiarostami in the past, directs this profoundly moving tale of the heavy burdens of the everyday. The disparities of wealth in Tehran are underlined, and lead actor Hussein Emadeddin displays their real results so deftly that the simple brutalities, the run-of-the-mill disgraces all land like subtly thrown bricks.
Kiarostami wrote the script and it has his usual social themes in place, but with an even more overt political commitment – a fact that got the film banned in Iran.
We so often fall victim to reductive and essentialist, broad brush mentalities when dealing with the Middle East that we fail to recognize its people as individuals, just like us, living as parts of complex societies – just like us. This film brings out the human elements, and hopefully can inspire a humane response in the process.