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The Academy Presents the Second Annual Neither/Nor Series

Posted February 10, 2014

The Neither/Nor series is an ongoing project to map the history (and present) of “chimeric” cinema, adventurous filmmaking that defies classification as either fiction or nonfiction. Every year True/False will partner with a visiting film critic who will present four films and produce a limited-edition monograph featuring essays and interviews. In the 2014 edition, esteemed film critic Godfrey Cheshire will introduce us to the self-reflexive Iranian cinema of the 1990s. Neither/Nor is underwritten by a generous grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

We’re holding a Neither/Nor kick-off reception on Tuesday, February 25th at 6 pm at Ragtag Cinema. There you can meet critic Godfrey Cheshire before he introduces a screening of his own 2007 film Moving Midway, a look at the relocating of his family’s antebellum home to escape Raleigh, North Carolina’s sprawl. The series begins in earnest at Ragtag on True/False eve, Wednesday, February 26th, with Close-Up, Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 masterpiece. The rest of Neither/Nor will take place during T/F 2014 at Big Ragtag. A Moment of Innocence plays Thursday at 5:30 PM, The Mirror Friday at 12:30 PM, The Apple Saturday at 10:30 AM and Close-Up screens again Saturday at 8:30 PM. All of the screenings in this series will be free.

Here’s a short introduction to this year’s selections.

Close-Up (dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 1990, 98 min.) In this 1990 landmark, director Abbas Kiarostami takes a bizarre case of identity theft and convinces its real-life subjects to participate in a creative reenactment. Hossain Sabzian is a young, underemployed lover of cinema. One day while riding a bus, he meets a woman and convinces her that he is film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. When she is confused why such a famous man would be riding public transit, Sabzian explains that it’s important to draw inspiration from the real world. Under this pretense, he worms his way into her family’s home and bank account. When the family starts to become suspicious, they invite an ambitious journalist to come investigate.
- Chris Boeckmann

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A Moment of Innocence (dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996, 78 min.) In 1974, when Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was a 17-year-old anti-Shah militant, he stabbed a policeman at a rally. Makhmalbaf found himself in prison for six years, while the police officer suffered serious injuries. Many years later, after Makhmalbaf had found fame as a director, he ran into the same police officer during a film shoot, and they agreed to collaborate on a film. In the brilliantly structured A Moment of Innocence, we witness the two men as they work together to recreate this incident. As they go about this process, we discover that the men have very different memories of what transpired on that pivotal day.
- Chris Boeckmann

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The Mirror (dir. Jafar Panahi, 1997, 93 min.) In the center of Tehran, as the day comes to a close, a young first-grader named Mina (played by Mina Mohammad-Khani) walks out of her school and discovers that her mother is nowhere to be found. Impatient, and with one arm in a sling, she decides to find her own way home. Mina boards a bus and listens in on the various conversations unfolding around her. That bus, it turns out, is heading the wrong direction. Eventually, all of a sudden, a frustrated Mina does something surprising. Jafar Panahi, then a protégé of Close-Up director Abbas Kiarostami, directed this playfully reflexive 1997 film.
- Chris Boeckmann

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The Apple (dir. Samira Makhmalbaf, 1999, 86 min.) Directed by a then 17-year-old Samira Makhmalbaf (daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who co-wrote the screenplay), this 1998 film recreates a scandalous news story using the real life participants. In an Iranian neighborhood, a strict, unemployed father and his blind wife keep their 11-year-old twin daughters, Massoumeh and Zahra, locked in their house. After neighbors complain to the welfare ministry, a social worker comes to release them. Makhmalbaf’s quasi-documentary follows Massoumeh and Zahra as they receive their first taste of freedom and observes their father as he sits behind bars, reflecting on his actions. Makhmalbaf’s auspicious debut is a profoundly unsettling exploration of patriarchy. Screens with “The House Is Black” (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963, 22 min.).
- Chris Boeckmann

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