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.
A pivotal female figure, Iranian poet ForughFarrokhzad, also stretched the bounds of her nation’s literature. Born in 1935 to a middle-class family in Tehran, she married a distant cousin fifteen years her senior at the age of sixteen in order to escape the suffocating confines of her strict home. Soon after, she began publishing her poems in magazines, and making frequent trips to Tehran to meet with various editors. However, within three years, during which time she gave birth to a son, her marriage failed and Farrokhzad was forced to relinquish her child to her husband and his family. She was given few visiting rights, and the child was brought up with the impression that his mother was a disgraceful woman who had abandoned him for the pursuit of her sexual pleasures. Distraught and burdened by family and societal pressures, she had a nervous breakdown for which she was hospitalized and subjected to electromagnetic shock therapy. Upon her recovery she faced a new world in the capital city-- a world of men in tight literary circles, unaccustomed to a woman amongst them. In a society where historically, women, their beauty, breasts, hair, etc., had freely been made the subjects of poems, Forugh made men her poetic subjects, her objects of love and reverie, of passion and sexual desire. Her poems were autobiographical and from a clearly feminine perspective. Further, they were “modern” as opposed to “traditional,” a form rejected by the academic community and not considered poetry at all. These factors subjected her to further disapproval and gossip.
Still, Farrokhzad lived her life uncompromisingly, and after a number of short-lived relationships fell in love and maintained a passionate relationship with a film director and producer, Ebrahim Golestan. She soon began work as an assistant and later became an editor at the Golestan Film Studios, where she subsequently make her first documentary film, The House is Black, about a leper colony near Tabriz. The artistic merit and success of the film cast Farrokhzad in a different light and she is finally recognized as a serious artist. A year later, the film was awarded the prestigious best documentary award in the 1963 Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany.
In the spring of 1964, Forugh’s fourth collection of poems, Reborn, appeared. It was immediately hailed as a major work rivaling the best in the short history of Persian modernist poetry. In a society where women were considered best suited for keeping their lips tightly shut and smiling, saying as little as possible, Farrokhzad was, in her sister’s words, an “active and curious woman who blew a new life into Iran’s world of modern poetry. She drafted a new pattern from today’s language. With incredible brevity, she unlocked the lips of (Iranian) women artists and writers.”[i]
Farrokhzad continued to write and publish until her untimely death, at the age of 32, in a car crash. Her poems have lived on, influencing generations of Iranians—and recently readers worldwide.
We must be judged and feel that we have made a difference, made a connection, and that we are responsible. But how can one look fondly at, or even expect an answer from a society that is shapeless, without an ideal, refusing any sort of responsibility, its only movement being from a season of mating to a season of grazing? In this field, an artist’s work is private and individualistic. How long can he or she survive this isolation, conversing only with the door and the four walls? This is a question, the answer to which lies in the capacity and forbearance of each individual artist. Those who grow silent, or have nothing more to say, had better keep their peace, otherwise their ability to cope with this frightful sewage becomes impossible and they find themselves abandoned and useless. The only way to survive is that one should reach such a state of detachment and maturity that he or she can become both a builder of and a mouthpiece for her world, both an observer and a judge. --Forugh Farrokhzad
Biographical sketch and translated poems contributed by writer and poet, Sholeh Wolpé
I speak from the deep end of night.
Of end of darkness I speak.
I speak of deep night ending.
O kind friend, if you visit my house,
bring me a lamp, cut me a window,
so I can gaze at the swarming alley of the fortunate.
From Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad translated by Sholeh Wolpé (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)
A window for seeing.
A window for hearing.
A window like a well
that plunges to the heart of the earth
and opens to the vast unceasing love in blue.
A window lavishing the tiny hands of loneliness
with the night’s perfume from gentle stars.
A window through which one could invite
the sun for a visit to abandoned geraniums.
One window is enough for me.
I come from the land of dolls, from under
the shade of paper trees in a storybook grove;
from arid seasons of barren friendships and love
in the unpaved alleys of innocence;
from years when the pallid letters of the alphabet
grew up behind desks of tubercular schools;
from the precise moment children could write
“stone” on the board and the startled starlings took wing
from the ancient tree.
I come from among the roots of carnivorous plants,
and my head still swirls with the sound
of a butterfly’s terror— crucified with a pin to a book.
When my trust hung from the feeble rope of justice
and the whole city tore my lamps’ hearts to shreds,
when love’s innocent eyes were bound
with the dark kerchief of law, and blood gushed
from my dreams’ unglued temples,
when my life was no longer anything,
nothing at all except the tick tick of a clock on the wall,
I understood that I must, must, must
One window is enough for me.
A window to a moment of comprehension, perception, silence.
The walnut sapling has grown tall enough
to tell its leaves the meaning of the wall.
Ask of the mirror the name of your liberator.
Is not the trembling earth beneath your feet
lonelier than you?
The prophets brought the epistles
of ruin to our age.
These explosions without end,
these poisonous clouds,
are they not the peal of holy scriptures?
O friend, O comrade, O blood brother,
when you reach the moon,
mark the day of the flowers’ massacre.
Dreams always fall
from the heights of their own naiveté,
It’s a four-leaf clover I’m smelling,
sprouted upon the grave of an archaic creed.
Was the woman buried in the shroud of longing
and chastity, my youth?
Will I ever again climb the stairs of wonder
to greet the good God who paces my roof?
I sense that time has passed,
I sense my share of “moments” is now a leaf of history;
I sense this desk is just an illusory mass between
my hair and this forlorn stranger’s hands.
Speak to me.
What does one who offers you a living body’s love
want in return but a nod to her sense of existence?
Speak to me.
From the sanctuary of my window
I am intimate with the sun.
From Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad translated by Sholeh Wolpé (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)
I have sinned a rapturous sin
in a warm enflamed embrace,
sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,
arms violent and ablaze.
In that quiet vacant dark
I looked into his mystic eyes,
found such longing that my heart
fluttered impatient in my breast.
In that quiet vacant dark
I sat beside him punch-drunk,
his lips released desire on mine,
grief unclenched my crazy heart.
I poured in his ears lyrics of love:
O my life, my lover it’s you I want.
Life-giving arms, it’s you I crave.
Crazed lover, for you I thirst.
Lust enflamed his eyes,
red wine trembled in the cup,
my body, naked and drunk,
quivered softly on his breast.
I have sinned a rapturous sin
beside a body quivering and spent.
I do not know what I did O God,
in that quiet vacant dark.
From Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad translated by Sholeh Wolpé (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)
Born in southcentral Iran, the town of Shiraz, Khajeh Shamseddin Mohammad Hafez Shiraz earned the title Hafez (given to those who memorize the Koran). He also had memorized many of the works of his hero, Saadi, as wells as Attar, Rumi and Nizami. His father who was a coal merchant died, leaving him and his mother with much debt. Hafez and his mother went to live with his uncle. He left day school to work in a drapery shop and later in a bakery.
While still working at the bakery, Hafez delivered bread to a wealthy quarter of town and saw Shakh-e Nabat, a young woman of incredible beauty. Many of his poems are addressed to Shakh-e Nabat. In pursuit of reaching his beloved, Hafez kept a forty day and night vigil at the tomb of Baba Kohi. After successfully attaining this, he met Attar (is not Attar Neishabouri) and became his disciple.
Longing to be united with his Creator, at the age of 60 he began a forty day and night vigil by sitting in a circle that he had drawn himself. On the morn of the fortieth day of his vigil, which was also on the fortieth anniversary of meeting his Master Attar, he went to his Master, and upon drinking a cup of wine that Attar gave him, he attained Cosmic Consciousness or God-Realization. In this phase, up to the death, he composed more than half of his ghazals., and continued to teach his small circle of disciples. His poetry at this time, talk with the authority of a Master who is united with God.
Hafez died at the age of 70 (1389 CE) in Shiraz. Hafez's body was buried in Musalla Gardens, along the banks of Roknabad river in Shiraz, which is now called Hafezieh.
He left some 500 Ghazals, 42 Rubaiyees, and a few Ghaseedeh's, composed over a period of 50 years. Hafez only composed when he was divinely inspired, and therefore he averaged only about 10 Ghazals per year. His focus was to write poetry worthy of the Beloved.
O beautiful wine-bearer, bring forth the cup and put it to my lips Path of love seemed easy at first, what came was many hardships. With its perfume, the morning breeze unlocks those beautiful locks The curl of those dark ringlets, many hearts to shreds strips. In the house of my Beloved, how can I enjoy the feast Since the church bells call the call that for pilgrimage equips. With wine color your robe, one of the old Magi’s best tips Trust in this traveler’s tips, who knows of many paths and trips. The dark midnight, fearful waves, and the tempestuous whirlpool How can he know of our state, while ports house his unladen ships. I followed my own path of love, and now I am in bad repute How can a secret remain veiled, if from every tongue it drips? If His presence you seek, Hafiz, then why yourself eclipse? Stick to the One you know, let go of imaginary trips.
Disheveled hair, sweaty, smiling, drunken, and With a torn shirt, singing, the jug in hand Narcissus loudly laments, on his lips, alas, alas! Last night at midnight, came and sat right by my bed-stand Brought his head next to my ears, with a sad song Said, O my old lover, you are still in dreamland The lover who drinks this nocturnal brew Infidel, if not worships the wine's command Go away O hermit, fault not the drunk Our Divine gift from the day that God made sea and land Whatever He poured for us in our cup, we just drank If it was a cheap wine or heavenly brand The smile on the cup's face and Beloved's hair strand Break many who may repent, just as Hafiz falsely planned.
When God designed your features and joined your brows Paved my way, then trapped me with your gestures & bows The spruce and I, both rooted to the ground Fate, like a fine cloth belt, its bind endows. United the knots of my doing and of the budding heart The fragrant breeze, when to you it made its vows. Fate convinced me to be enslaved to thee Yet nothing moves unless your will allows. Like an umbilical cord, don't wrap around my heart It is your flowing lock of hair that I espouse. You were the desire of another, O breeze of union, Alas, my heart's hope and fire you douse. I said because of your infliction I shall leave my house Smilingly said go ahead Hafiz, with chained hooves and paws.
I long to open up my heart For my heart do my part. My story was yesterday’s news From rivals cannot keep apart. On this holy night stay with me Till the morning, do not depart. On a night so dark as this, My course, how can I chart? O breath of life, help me tonight That in the morn I make a start. In my love for you, I will My self and ego thwart. Like Hafiz, being love smart; I long to master that art.
The Angel at the Tavern Door
Last night I dreamed that angels stood without The tavern door, and knocked in vain, and wept; They took the clay of Adam, and, methought, Moulded a cup therewith while all men slept. Oh dwellers in the halls of Chastity! You brought Love’s passionate red wine to me, Down to the dust I am, your bright feet stept. For Heaven’s self was all too weak, to bear The burden of His love God laid on it, He turned to seek a messenger elsewhere, And in the Book of Fate my name was writ. Between my Lord and me such concord lies. As makes the Huris glad in Paradise, With songs of praise through the green glades they flit.
A hundred dreams of Fancy’s garnered store Assail me — Father Adam went astray Tempted by one poor grain of corn! Wherefore Absolve and pardon him that turns away Though the soft breath of Truth reaches his ears, For two-and-seventy Jangling creeds he hears, And loud-voiced Fable calls him ceaselessly.
That, that is not the flame of Love’s true fire Which makes the torchlight shadows dance in rings, But where the radiance draws the moth’s desire And send him forth with scorched and drooping wings. The heart of one who dwells retired shall break, Rememb’ring a black mole and a red cheek, And his life ebb, sapped at its secret springs.
Yet since the earliest time that man has sought To comb the locks of Speech, his goodly bride, Not one, like Hafiz, from the face of Thought Has torn the veil of Ignorance aside.
–Khwāja Šams ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī (Hāfez) (خواجه شمسالدین محمد حافظ شیرازی), The Divan (ca. 1370)(transl. Gertrud Bell 1897)
Morning breeze, its fragrance will exhale The old world will once again youthfully sail. Tulip will bring a red cup to the meadows Narcissus' eyes from poppy will grow pale. When would nightingale put up with such abuse In the chamber of the rose cry and wail. I traded the temple for the tavern, fault me not Prayer is long and stale, time is frail. Leave not joy of the now till the morrow Who can vouch that the morrow, the now shall trail? Month of Sha'aban put not down the jug of wine Till the end of Ramadan you'll miss this Holy Grail. Hold dear all the flowers and commune Came to be and will whither with a breeze or a gale. This feast is for friends, O minstrel, play and sing Sing again, it came thus and went thus, to what avail? Hafez, for your sake, entered this tale Walk with him, say farewell, he'll tear the veil.
Mechner, Jordan, A.B. Sina (writers) and LeUyen Pham and Alex Puviland (illustrators). Prince of Persia (First Second, 2008).
Long ago in Persia, there lived a Prince -- a man of honor, of valor, and full of strength -- a man for his people, who lived with them and took on their trials and hardships. And he was loved. His name is no longer remembered. When people speak of him, they call him merely, 'The Prince of Persia,' as if there have been no others, and his descendants are enjoined to live like him, to be like him, to the ends of their days.
Long ago in Persia, there were many princes, one following another, sometimes quick, sometimes slow, sometimes fat, clever, joyous, and all more or less honorable. And in some of those princes there shone the spirit of The Prince of Persia, for in Persia time spins like a wheel, and what is to come has already happened, and then happens again, year in and year out. This is the story of two of those princes, and of the destiny that threads their lives together.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Pantheon, 2004).
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
Satrapi, Marjane. Embroideries (Pantheon, 2005).
From the best-selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough-talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.
As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one’s virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most importantly, keep up appearances.
Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers and will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere–and to teach us all a thing or two.
Satrapi, Marjane. Chicken with Plums (Pantheon, 2006).
In her acclaimed Persepolis books and in Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi rendered the events of her life and times in a uniquely captivating and powerful voice and vision. Now she turns that same keen eye and ear to the heartrending story of her great-uncle, a celebrated Iranian musician who gave up his life for music and love.
We are in Tehran in 1958, and Nasser Ali Khan, one of Iran’s most revered tar players, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged. Though he tries, he cannot find one to replace it, one whose sound speaks to him with the same power and passion with which his music speaks to others. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures, closing the door on the demands and love of his wife and his four children. Over the course of the week that follows, his family and close friends attempt to change his mind, but Nasser Ali slips further and further into his own reveries: flashbacks and flash-forwards (with unexpected appearances by the likes of the Angel of Death and Sophia Loren) from his own childhood through his children’s futures. And as the pieces of his story slowly fall into place, we begin to understand the profundity of his decision to give up life.
Marjane Satrapi brings what has become her signature humor, insight, and generosity to this emotional tale of life and death, and the courage and passion both require of us. The poignant story of one man, it is also a story of stunning universality–and an altogether luminous work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The DVDs and videos presented in this annotated section showcase films that are readily available for rent or purchase. A significant number of descriptions for the films has been written by a distributor, as a film synopsis or by a critic. The names of the writer appear at the end of each description when applicable.
120 (2009), Director: Murat Saraçoğlu and Özhan Eren, Running Time: 120 minutes.
In the city of Van in 1914, an Armenian doctor treats a Turkish boy. This gives rise to concern by people arguing that Armenians are enemies of the Turks. The doctor is killed by Tashnaks. During the Battle of Sarıkamış, the Ottoman army runs out of ammunition and appeals to the people of Van for help, who happen to have supplies. However, the First World War is on and all men are fighting at four corners of the empire and therefore can not respond to the appeal. The young children of Van want to do something. When the Principal of a school, who has lost a son in the war, suggests that the ammunition be transported to Sarikamis, 120 young boys aged 12 to 17 volunteer and take to the road. The movie tells the true story of the 120 boys and their sisters and mothers left behind, who wait for their return.
African Queen (1952), Director: John Houston, Running Time: 105 minutes.
Robert Morley and Katharine Hepburn play Samuel and Rose Sayer, brother and sister British Methodist missionaries in a village in German East Africa in 1914 during World War I. Their mail and supplies are delivered by the rough-and-ready Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) of the African Queen, whose coarse behavior they tolerate in a rather stiff manner.
When Charlie warns them that war has broken out between Germany and Britain, the Sayers choose to stay on, only to witness the Germans burning down the mission village and herd the villagers away. When Samuel protests, he is beaten by a German soldier. After the Germans leave, Samuel becomes delirious with fever and soon dies. Charlie returns shortly afterward. He helps Rose bury her brother, and they set off in the African Queen.
Anzacs (named for members of the all volunteer ANZAC army formations) was a 1985 5-part Australian mini series set in World War I. The series follows the lives of a group of young Australian men who enlist in the Australian army in 1914, fighting first at Gallipoli in 1915, and then on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.
It follows in the wake of Australian New Wave war films such as Breaker Morant (1980), Gallipoli (1981), and precedes The Lighthorsemen (1987). Recurring themes of these films include the Australian identity, such as mateship and larrikinism, the loss of innocence in war, and also the continued coming of age of the Australian nation and its soldiers (the ANZAC spirit).
Austeria (1983), Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Running Time: 109 minutes.
Austeria takes place during the opening days of World War I, in the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. Tag (Franciszek Pieczka) is a Jewish innkeeper whose inn (austeria means inn in the local Polish dialect) is located near the border with Russia. War has broken out and local civilians are fleeing the advancing Russian Army, and several groups of refugees have taken shelter in Tag's inn for the night. A group of Hassidic Jews from the neighboring village arrive, followed by an Austrian baroness on and a Hungarian hussar cut off from his unit.
A Very Long Engagement (2004), Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Running Time: 134 minutes.
Audrey Tautou, who rose to international stardom with the title role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's worldwide smash Amélie, reunites with the director for this drama, set during the darkest days of World War I and its immediate aftermath. Mathilde (Tautou) is a pretty but frail young woman who was left with a bad leg after a childhood bout with polio. Mathilde lives in a small French village with her Aunt Bénédicte (Chantal Neuwirth) and Uncle Sylvain (Dominique Pinon), and is engaged to marry Manach (Gaspard Ulliel), the son of a lighthouse keeper who is fighting with the army near the German front. Manach is one of five soldiers who have been accused of injuring themselves in order to be sent home; in order to discourage similar behavior among their comrades, Manach and the other soldiers are sentenced to death, and the condemned men are marched into the no man's land between the French and German lines, where they are certain to be killed. Mathilde receives word of Manach's death, but in her heart she believes that if the man she loved had been killed, she would know it and feel it. Convinced he's still alive somewhere, Mathilde hires a private detective (Ticky Holgado) shortly after the end of the war, and together they set out to find the missing Manach. Jodie Foster appears in a supporting role as a Polish expatriate living in France. (Mark Deming, All Movie Guide)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1979), Director: Delbert Mann, Running Time: 131 minutes.
Taken from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front is a devastating portrait by Delbert Mann (Desire Under the Elms, Marty) of a small group of German soldiers throughout the World War I. The star-studded cast is headed by Richard Thomas (The Waltons) as Paul Baumer, and includes such award-winning actors as Ernest Borgnine, Ian Holm, and Patricia Neal. Watching Paul as he watches all of his high school buddies die is a highly emotional experience. He returns to his home a different person, conflicted in his feelings about the Army and war, evolving from an idealistic schoolboy to a fearful and humble veteran. (Zachary Lively)
This extraordinary World War I film concerns themes of heroism, sacrifice, duty, and self-knowledge as profound as any in Saving Private Ryan. The story, taken from Pat Barker's 1991 novel Regeneration and based on true events, is set in a British Army hospital in Craiglockart, Scotland, in 1917. There, a pioneering psychiatrist named Dr. William Rivers (Jonathan Pryce) works with shell-shocked soldiers in a gentle, humane manner that contrasts sharply with the brutality of his colleagues. (The film's most horrifying scene features a mute patient being forced to speak by means of electric shock.)
Among Rivers' patients is a mute, amnesiac officer named Billy Prior (Jonny Lee Miller), as well as the emotionally depleted poet Wilfred Owen (Stuart Bunce) and another poet and war hero, Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby). Unlike the others, Sassoon is not, in fact, suffering from any disorder but is being quietly punished for writing a pamphlet denouncing the war. The army hopes Rivers can find some basis for mental incompetency in Sassoon, but the thoughtful doctor instead attempts to persuade him to add legitimacy to his criticisms of the war by returning to active duty.
Pryce brilliantly captures the cumulative effects of Rivers's responsibility--of fixing men and sending them back to their possible deaths--on the good doctor's nerves. Wilby is also fine as Sassoon, but the film belongs just as much to actors Miller and Bunce, whose characters are different kinds of men struggling to find their balance, one through a revived sense of duty and the other through his writing. Scottish filmmaker Gillies Mackinnon (The Playboys) is at the top of his form, telling a unique story about the invisible wounds of war while shedding light on the meeting of two visionary poets and one visionary physician. (Tom Keogh)
The Big Parade (1925), Director: King Vidor, Running Time: 141 minutes.
The Big Parade is a 1925 silent film which tells the story of an idle rich boy who joins the US Army's Rainbow Division and is sent to France to fight in World War I, becomes friends with two working class men, experiences the horrors of trench warfare, and finds love with a French girl.
The film was groundbreaking for not glorifying the war or its human costs, exemplified by the lead character's loss of a leg from battle wounds. It heavily influenced all subsequent war films, especially All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). It was adapted by Harry Behn and King Vidor (uncredited) from the play by Joseph Farnham and the autobiographical novel Plumes by Laurence Stallings, and directed by Vidor. It stars John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Claire Adams, Karl Dane, Robert Ober and Tom O'Brien.
The Blue Max is highly unusual among Hollywood films, not just for being a large-scale drama set during the generally overlooked World War I, but in concentrating on air combat as seen entirely from the German point of view. The story focuses on a lower-class officer, Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), and his obsessive quest to win a Blue Max, a medal awarded for shooting down 20 enemy aircraft. Around this are subplots concerning a propaganda campaign by James Mason's pragmatic general, rivalry with a fellow officer (Jeremy Kemp), and a love affair with a decadent countess (Ursula Andress). As directed by John Guillermin, the film's main assets are epic production values, great flying scenes, and stunning dogfights. … The Blue Max is a cold, cynical drama offering a visually breathtaking portrait of a stultified society tearing itself apart during the final months of the Great War. ( Gary S. Dalkin)
The film opens in Southampton in 1916, where the Britannic has been refitted as a hospital ship for wounded soldiers fighting on the Western Front and elsewhere. Among the nurses who are to serve aboard her is Lady Lewis (Jacqueline Bisset), who is being delivered to Greece via Naples, where her husband has become Ambassador for Great Britain. Travelling with her is Vera Campbell (Amanda Ryan), an operative of British Intelligence posing as Lady Lewis' governesss. Campbell is constantly unnerved by the voyage, having survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic four years previously.
Meanwhile, a German spy has boarded the Britannic posing as the ship's chaplain, Chaplain Reynolds (Edward Atterton), and soon discovers that the Britannic is indeed carrying small arms as was believed - although he is unaware that Captain Bartlett (John Rhys-Davies) has placed the small arms aboard as a means of protection against mutiny. Under the articles of war, Reynolds considers his actions against the Britannic to be legal (any attack on a hospital ship in wartime is considered to be a war crime) and sets about initiating a series of sabotage attempts to try and either take over the Britannic or otherwise sink her, including allying himself with the Irish stokers, all members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, to mutiny and take over the ship.
Dr. Zhivago (1965), Director: David Lean, Running Time: 192 Minutes. Movie based on Pasternak's novel of the same name; provides background to the Russian Revolution and the many ways Russian society was affected by the revolution and the civil wars; excellent re-creations of the mass desertion of soldiers from the eastern front.
Fall of Eagles (1974), TV-Mini Series, Running Time: 13x50mins or total of 650 Minutes. A well-presented 13-part British TV series that dramatically presents the end of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and Romanov dynasties during World War I.
A Farewell to Arms (1932), Director: Frank Borzage, Running Time: 78 Minutes.
On the Italian front in World War I, an American ambulance driver (Gary Cooper) falls in love with a nurse. Cooper was a Hemingway friend in real life, and later played the hero of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls; his boyish simplicity is just right for director Frank Borzage's heartfelt approach. The jaded battle scenes show the influence of the hit film version of All Quiet on the Western Front, especially in a gripping montage depicting Cooper's progress alone through the war zone. Hemingway would have none of it, of course; he once disdainfully wrote that "in the first picture version Lt. Henry deserted because he didn't get any mail and then the whole Italian Army went along, it seems, to keep him company." This is first and foremost a love story, however, and as such it succeeds beautifully, right through to the remarkably intense ending. (Robert Horton)
During World War I, British Intelligence is hot on the pursuit of "Fraulein Doktor", an expert and elusive German spy, who thwarts them in every attempt to get to her.
Gallipoli (1981), Director: Peter Weir, Running Time: 111 minutes.
An outstanding drama, Gallipoli resonates with sadness long after you have seen it. Set during World War I, this brutally honest antiwar movie was co-written by director Peter Weir. Mark Lee and a sinfully handsome Mel Gibson are young, idealistic best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams when they join the war effort. This character study follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. Because the script pulls us into their lives and forces us to care for these young men, we are devastated by their fate. (Rochelle O'Gorman)
Grand Illusion (1938), Director: Jean Renoir, Running Time: 114 minutes.
It's long been one of the revered classics of international cinema…. The story is set during World War I, mostly in a couple of German POW camps, where two very different French prisoners plot to escape: the working-class officer Maréchal (Jean Gabin, the French Spencer Tracy) and the upper-class de Boieldieu (Pierre Fresnay). The suspenseful backbone of the story is formed by these escape attempts, but Renoir is primarily concerned with the way people treat each other, and especially with how class and nationality inform human relations. Most compelling of all the film's characters is the aristocratic German officer von Rauffenstein, unforgettably incarnated by stiff-backed Erich von Stroheim; although he runs a prison camp, von Rauffenstein cannot help but strike up a friendship with de Boieldieu, a kindred spirit from the doomed nobility. There is nothing dewy or naive about Renoir's vision (and two years after the release of this antiwar film, Europe was plunged into another world war), yet Grand Illusion is one of those movies that makes you feel good about such long-outmoded ideas as sacrifice and brotherhood. After it won a prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1937, the Nazis declared the film "Cinematographic Enemy Number One." (Robert Horton)
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), Director: George Roy Hill, Running Time: 108 Minutes.
A biplane pilot who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed, eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film depicting the dogfights in the Great War. (Keith Loh)
J'accuse (1919), Director: Abel Gance, Running Time: 166 minutes.
French silent film directed by Abel Gance. It juxtaposes a romantic drama with the background of the horrors of World War I, and it is sometimes described as a pacifist or anti-war film.Work on the film began in 1918 and some scenes were filmed on real battlefields. The film's powerful depiction of wartime suffering, and particularly its climactic sequence of the "return of the dead", made it an international success, and confirmed Gance as one of the most important directors in Europe.
Joyeux Noël is a film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards.
This film was a touchstone of the late 1960s, when it was seen as an antiwar allegory for a world in which madness seemed to reign. Of course, that would probably be true whenever this movie was shown, wouldn't it? Directed by Philippe de Broca and set during World War I, King of Hearts stars Alan Bates as a Scottish soldier separated from his unit in France. He wanders into a small French village that has been abandoned by its residents in the face of oncoming combat. Instead, the town is populated by the residents of a nearby insane asylum, whose keepers have fled--a fact that escapes the innocent soldier, who assumes these are the regular folks. A film that celebrates the innocence and wisdom of the insane, even as it questions who the real madmen are. (Marshall Fine)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Director: David Lean, Running Time: 228 minutes.
Peter O'Toole gives a star-making performance as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British officer who united the desert tribes of Arabia against the Turks during World War I. Lean orchestrates sweeping battle sequences and breathtaking action, but the film is really about the adventures and trials that transform Lawrence into a legendary man of the desert. Lean traces this transformation on a vast canvas of awesome physicality; no other movie has captured the expanse of the desert with such scope and grandeur. Equally important is the psychology of Lawrence, who remains an enigma even as we grasp his identification with the desert. Perhaps the greatest triumph of this landmark film is that Lean has conveyed the romance, danger, and allure of the desert with such physical and emotional power. It's a film about a man who leads one life but is irresistibly drawn to another, where his greatness and mystery are allowed to flourish in equal measure. (Jeff Shannon)
The Lost Battalion (2001), Director: Russell Mulcahy, Running Time: 100 minutes.
The true World War I story of an American unit that was surrounded by German troops and pounded mercilessly for days (at times even by its own artillery) is vividly portrayed in this made-for-television film starring Rick Schroder. Playing a patrician New York City lawyer commissioned a major and sent into combat, Schroder commands a battalion composed of New York wiseacres as well as so-called "apple knockers" from the West. The plot is straightforward (and will be familiar to those who know World War I history), but the film rises above what could have been a clichéd telling of the story of Major Whittlesey and his heroic men. The action sequences, shot tightly with hand-held cameras, owe a debt to Saving Private Ryan, and the surreal horror of World War I, in which armies killed with machine guns yet communicated by carrier pigeon, is conveyed very well. (Robert J. McNamara)
Starring Omar Sheriff and Catherine Deneuve the film presents the downfall of the Hapsburg family and the personal tragedy of Crown Prince Prince Rudolph. The story focuses on the lead up to the great scandal of 1889, when Prince Rudolph took his teenage mistress, Baroness Maria Vetsera, to a hunting lodge called "Mayerling," where both were to end up dead.
The tragic story of Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. It is an inside look into the private lives of Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, their daughters, and the painful secret which bound the Imperial Couple to the mystical Rasputin, and the eventual execution of the entire family. (Gailene Holley)
A movie about the First World War based on a stage musical of the same name, portraying the "Game of War" and focusing mainly on the members of one family (last name Smith) who go off to war. Much of the action in the movie revolves around the words of the marching songs of the soldiers, and many scenes portray some of the more famous (and infamous) incidents of the war, including the assassination of Duke Ferdinand, the Christmas meeting between British and German soldiers in no-mans-land, and the wiping out by their own side of a force of Irish soldiers newly arrived at the front, after successfully capturing a ridge that had been contested for some time. (Sonya Roberts)
Pack Up Your Troubles (1932), Directors: George Marshall and Raymond McCarey, Running Time: 68 Minutes.
The film begins in 1917 with Stan (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) being drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in World War I. While in the Army, the pair befriend a man named Eddie Smith, who is kidnapped and killed by the enemy during a battle.
After the War is over, Stan and Ollie venture to New York City, where they begin a quest to reunite Eddie's baby daughter (Jacquie Lyn) with her rightful family. The task proves both monumental and problematic as the boys discover just how many people in New York have the last name "Smith".
Paths of Glory (1957), Director: Stanley Kubrick, Running Time: 87 Minutes.
Stanley Kubrick had already made his talent known with the outstanding racetrack heist thriller The Killing, but it was the 1957 antiwar masterpiece Paths of Glory that catapulted Kubrick to international acclaim. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, the film was initiated by Kirk Douglas, who chose the young Kubrick to direct what would become one of the most powerful films about the wasteful insanity of warfare. In one of his finest roles, Douglas plays Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Dax is appointed as defense attorney for the chosen scapegoats, and what follows is a travesty of justice that has remained relevant and powerful for decades. In the wake of some of the most authentic and devastating battle sequences ever filmed, Kubrick brilliantly explores the political machinations and selfish personal ambitions that result in battlefield slaughter and senseless executions. The film is unflinching in its condemnation of war and the self-indulgence of military leaders who orchestrate the deaths of thousands from the comfort of their luxurious headquarters. For many years, Paths of Glory was banned in France as a slanderous attack on French honor, but it's clear that Kubrick's intense drama is aimed at all nations and all men. Though it touches on themes of courage and loyalty in the context of warfare, the film is specifically about the historical realities of World War I, but its impact and artistic achievement remain timeless and universal. (Jeff Shannon)
The film starts by referencing Siegfried Sassoon's open letter dated July 1917, protesting the conduct and insincerities of the First World War. The letter has been published in The Times and has received much attention in England. With the string-pulling and guidance of Robert Graves, a fellow poet and friend of Sassoon, the army agrees to send Sassoon to Craiglockhart War Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Scotland, rather than court-martialling him. At Craiglockhart, Sassoon meets with Dr. William Rivers, a former anthropologist turned psychiatrist who encourages his patients to express their war memories so that they can “heal their nerves”. There is not a clear main character in this movie, but there is more focus on several of the characters; notably, Billy Prior, Siegfried Sassoon and Dr. Rivers himself. A very important secondary character, Wilfred Owen, is linked to Sassoon’s storyline.
Sassoon's letter is read in the House of Commons and is dismissed, as he is considered mentally unstable. He begins to become friends with another patient in the hospital, Wilfred Owen. Owen aspires to be a poet as well and he greatly respects Sassoon's work; Sassoon agrees to help Owen with his poetry. Meanwhile, Doctor Rivers has taken a leave of absence from the hospital and visits Dr. Lewis Yealland’s practice in London. Dr. Yealland treats his patients not like traumatised human beings, but like mere machines, which need to be repaired as quickly as possible. Rivers sits in on one of Yealland’s electroshock therapy sessions on a private named Callan. Rivers is at first repulsed by the brutality of the treatment, but back in Craiglockhart, he starts to question his own method of therapy, since his patients take long to recover and sometimes actually suffer under the expression of their traumas.
Sassoon has also come to a very important decision. Although he still disagrees with the brutality and suffering of the war, he decides to return to France in order to care for his men. Both Graves and Rivers are pleased with this decision. During the Review Board’s evaluation of Sassoon, Rivers is torn apart by conflicting feelings. On the one hand, Sassoon’s views have not changed in the slightest, and as such he still fulfills the qualification of mental illness that landed him at Craiglockhart, however on the other hand Sassoon did not truly qualify as mentally ill in the first place, and he strongly wishes to return to the war. When his opinion is needed, he qualifies Sassoon as being fit, and thereby qualified to return to war.
Sergeant York (1941), Director: Howard Hawks, Running Time: 134 Minutes.
Gary Cooper plays Alvin York, the real-life country lad and sharpshooter drafted to fight during World War I but blocked from killing by his pacifist sentiments. Howard Hawks makes a rousing, heroic film out of the tale, and Cooper gives one of his best performances (for which he won an Oscar). The 1941 feature seems as much a valentine to wartime America (and a not-so-subtle piece of propaganda) as anything, with Hawks capturing splendidly shot scenes of life in York's home state of Tennessee, which in turn provide a striking contrast to the battlefield. A key scene in the film, in which York is presented with an argument in favor of killing in war, is still thought provoking.
Shoulder Arms (1918), Director: Charlie Chaplin, Running Time: 46 Minutes. The film is an early Charlie Chaplin masterpiece that looks at the horrors of trench warfare through comedy. It is basically an opportunity for Chaplain to riff on the absurdities of Army life and modern warfare. Everything up to and including mail call, food in the trenches, and infestations of lice, comes into play, with consistently hilarious results. One sequence, in which Charlie moves through enemy territory while camouflaged as a rickety tree, is a gem. (Paul Tatara)
Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Schweighöfer) is the most feared and celebrated pilot of the German air force in World War I. To him and his companions, air combats are events of sporty nature, technical challenge and honorable acting, ignoring the terrible extent of war. But after falling in love with the nurse Käte (Headey), Manfred realizes he is only used for propaganda means. Caught between his disgust for the war, and the responsibility for his fighter wing, von Richthofen sets out to fly again.
The Trench (2002), Director: William Boyd, Running Time: 95 minutes. Stuck in their putrid, claustrophobic trench, 17-year-old Billy Macfarlane and his mates desperately try to distract themselves from what is rapidly approaching – by whatever means necessary. Only a short time ago, these brash young men had raced to sign up and fight the Kaiser. Now, with the countdown to war ticking away, the awful truth of what they are about to encounter begins to sink in. Surrounded by snipers and with the artillery barrage thundering constantly overhead, the war is closing in around them. When the order finally comes to fix bayonets and clamber over the top, these frightened soldiers are forced out of the trench and into a hellish maelstrom of smoke, blood and destiny.
Wings (1927), Director: William Wellman. Winner of the first Best Picture Academy Award, Wings is the story of aerial combat pilots in World War I. Robert Cowley has brought together 30 articles to examine this unnecessary but perhaps inevitable war in its diverse aspects. A number of the subjects covered here are not just unfamiliar but totally fresh. Who originated the term “no-man’s-land” and the word “tank”? What forgotten battles nearly destroyed the French Army in 1915? How did the discovery of a German naval codebook bring the United States into the war? What was the weapon that, for the first time, put a man-made object into the stratosphere?