I have listed below some of my favourite Iranian movies. These movies deserve detailed review that I’ll try in the near future. I’ll link them to good reviews when possible. For the moment, I’ll leave you with a list of movies, and a few links.
List of movies
- Colour of Paradise: A bright blind child who enjoys school is forced by his father to quit school and take up carpentry with a blind carpenter. The story is a drama between the child and his father who is ashamed of him. (detailed review)
- Children of heaven: Young Ali looses his sister’s shoes when he takes them to get repaired. The brother and sister duo are unable to tell their parents about the lost shoe who are struggling with their poverty. The story revolves around the travails the children face without one pair of shoes (detailed review).
- Kelid: The Mother steps out of the house for a brief shopping trip leaving two young children locked within the house. Their grandmother who comes around fears that the house may be catching fire. The drama revolves around the attempts of the grandmother to get the child to find a spare key so that they can escape the fire.
- Two women: Contrasts the life of two women friends, one of whom is highly talented but is forced to marry a man who is jealous of her and is not supportive of her activities. The other flourishes in her career with a husband who does not trample on her freedoms.
- The day I became a woman: A brilliant movie based on three segments, each focusing on some aspect of women’s lives. The first segment deals with a girl who turns nine years old, and so becomes a “woman” that day. She bargains with her grandmother that she was born at noon and so she could go out and play with her boy-friend till noon. The children play, the clock ticks and the drama is played out in the minds of the audience. The second segment plays on a debate in Iran on whether driving bicycles is sport, and whether women should be permitted to drive bicycles. The entire sequence is shot with a set of women on bicycles with the protagonist being challenged by her husband, brothers and the local priest while she drives on. The third is a Feliniesque sequence with an old woman who finally chooses to indulge herself in a mall in ways that she was unable to do all her life. This is one of my all-time-favourite Iranian movies.
- Once upon a time cinema: A comedy based on a plot where the protagonist introduces cinema to an ancient Persian court. The King who is initially opposed to it falls in love with the movie’s heroine, and then all hell breaks loose. According to the director, the movie is based on a pattern of fairy tales of thousand and one nights and presents a condensed history of Iranian cinema, and the love for cinema in general.
- Song of the sparrows: Karim, a worker in an ostrich ranch in rural Iran, loses his job when one of the ostriches escapes the farm. This comes at a time when his daughter is in need of a hearing aid before her exams. In a visit to Tehran he discovers opportunities to make money as a motorbike-cab driver, but faces obstacles from established interests. This comedy set in a tragic setting is totally worth watching both for its great story-telling, and for the beautiful cinematography.
- Bashu the little stranger
Acclaimed Iranian movies are wonderful in bringing out the drama in real life. Movies such as Kelid, The day I became a woman, Children of heaven and many others have daringly bold scripts and are completely out of the box. Others like Baran, Two women, etc. have the flavour of many Indian movies – but have a socially relevant theme. What I like most about these Iranians is their ability to get the best out of children. In fact, most of the internationally acclaimed movies revolve around children. The direction of these movies is so good that one does not even get to realise that the children have actually “acted”. It almost feels like these were videos shot as children were going about their lives in the normal course of things.
I also find the theme of most Iranian movies quite empowering – most of them have a positive touch – though many focus oppressive traditions. Most movies I have seen have a touch of humanism and most actors are portrayed in a positive light – clearly, there are exceptions. In stark contrast to the image of Iranian women in the western world, women in these movies are dynamic and creative. The stories manage to do this as well as highlight the oppressive conditions in which many of them live. My favourite on this account is The Day I became a woman.
Iran’s ability to produce such beautiful movies is quite a wonder given the difficult administrative circumstances that the directors work in. I hear that all the movie equipment in Iran is owned by the government – which means tremendous control by the government on the movie industry. Further, directors are rated on their movies and those with bad ratings can be barred from making movies for several years. Apart from the harshness of this setup, it is quite likely that the directors have to spend a lot of their creative energies in distasteful administraive issues.