In which Godfrey Cheshire introduces us to the self-reflexive Iranian cinema of the 1990s.
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.). (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
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 becomes suspicious, they invite an ambitious journalist to come investigate. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
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, a frustrated Mina does something surprising. Jafar Panahi, then a protégé of Close-Up director Abbas Kiarostami, directed this playfully reflexive 1997 film. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
In 1974, when Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was a 17-year-old anti-Shah militant, he stabbed a policeman at a rally. The police officer suffered serious injuries, and Makhmalbaf found himself in prison for six years. 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 working 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. (CB) Screens for free as a part of the Neither/Nor Film Series. Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Godfrey Chesire is a film critic, journalist, and filmmaker based in New York City. Beginning in 1993, his writings on Iranian cinema have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Variety, The Village Voice, Film Comment, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Dissent, and other publications. Beginning in the late ‘90s, he made several extended trips to Iran to study the country and its cinema. In 2008, First Run Features released his feature Moving Midway, a documentary about his family’s North Carolina Plantation, which he wrote and directed; recently, The Museum of Modern Art acquired the film for its permanent collection. He is a former chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle and a member of the National Society of Film Critics.
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