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    Scene from Water, Wind, Dust. in Iranian Cinema
    Scene from "Water, Wind, Dust."

    Persian cats

    Iranian directors' finest is on display in Lincoln Center's "Iranian Cinema" festival, taking a hard look at abusive relationships and other serious issues in Iran's cultural struggle.


    Seven of the very latest crop of Iranian art films will be on view from Sept. 10 to 23 at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. If you think that the stories are only about children and more children, think again. "Iranian Cinema: New Directors, New Directions" should challenge that stereotype. These films feature grown-ups, from the young women that consign themselves to rug weaving in "Daughters of the Sun" (Mariam Shahriar — 9/13, 22, 23) to the couple locked in an abusive relationship in "Red" (Fereydoun Geyrani — 9/17, 22). The real subjects, though, are human values and how people meet personal challenges. Many of these films have women in the director's chair and concentrate on women's issues.

    Film festival featuring 19 films from Iranian directors, in combination with "Blazing Landscapes: The Films of Amir Naderi" retrospective.

    Related links: Official site
    Simultaneously, there is a retrospective of an Iranian filmmaker who now makes New York his home. "Blazing Landscapes: The Films of Amir Naderi" comprises no fewer than nine of his features from 1973 on. Two of these virtually define the genre of Iranian art film. "The Runner" (9/10, 14, 15, 17) stars Majid Niroumand as the orphan Amiroo, who lives in an abandoned ship in a lazy Persian Gulf port and survives by doing odd jobs. His greatest thrill in life is to win one of the daily races against the other boys. In the final unforgettable scene, he exultantly grabs the piece of ice waiting at the end of a scorching course. In "Wind, Water, Dust" (9/18, 19) a four-year-older Niroumand returns as a young man looking for his family that has migrated out of drought-stricken southern Iran. This is nature at its harshest, and Naderi finds poetry in blowing sand and desiccated fish in a dry lake. Although you might locate these two films in video, their eloquence is revealed only on the big screen. Dialogue is minimized in both so that the visual can predominate. Completely different is Naderi's gritty "Manhattan by Numbers" (9/18, 19), one of the starkest looks at Gotham ever to hit the screen. George (John Wojda) works his way from Washington Heights to the bull and bear sculptures at Bowling Green in search of a friend who can help him out of a squeeze.

    Mohammad Reza Foroutan and Hedyeh Tehrani in Red. in Iranian Cinema  
    Mohammad Reza Foroutan and Hedyeh Tehrani in "Red."
    Sandwiched between the screenings is an international conference, "The Making of Iranian Cinema: Two Decades and a Century." The most popular of the four sessions is sure to be "Women in Iranian Cinema" on Sept 16. Critics and scholars will address topics such as Iranian society as seen in contemporary cinema and its worldwide popularity. The two-hour sessions are free but you must reserve. Call the Walter Reade box office at (212) 875-5601 between 2 and 6 p.m.

    Among the films to be shown these two weeks, the closest thing to a popular success in Iran would be "Red." In it, bad boy Mohammad Reza Foroutan (the stalker in "Two Women") returns as a jealous husband. In case you are wondering, he does do other roles. Two recent films not part of this festival show him as a romantic ("Under the City's Skin") and an obsessed Sacred Defense (Iran-Iraq) War vet ("Born in the Month of Mehr").

    The gripe often heard within Iran is that these internationally successful art films are "made for festivals." Indeed, of late, Iranian directors have packed the awards lists at juried film events throughout the world. The reasons are clear. The films are an antidote to Hollywood's sex-and-violence menu. They also deal with social issues and personal feelings in a thought-provoking but not prescriptive way. Nature figures prominently, and you can enjoy a landscape's spirituality or the beauty of a flower without high-tech effects. Finally, the features mostly run around a comfortable 90 minutes but pack in so much life that they say more than most three-hour extravaganzas.

    The Islamic Revolution is 22 years old, and conservatives and reformers are still skirmishing over what the form Iranian society should take. Cinema is naturally one of the arenas where political conflicts play themselves out. Apart from sports, it's the most popular entertainment, especially for young people. In small ways (or so it seems to us), film directors have challenged some of the rules set by the powers that be even while upholding traditional values. Each detail of montage or script can be scrutinized for hidden messages. In a few cases there have been major problems for a particular film or its director that appears to challenge current norms in Iran. This dialogue is largely irrelevant for viewers here in the U.S., where we are unused to cultural subtleties. Whatever the end product of the internal political struggle in Iran, cinema seems destined to play a major role in shaping the outcome there.

    Festival articles

    Iranian Cinema

    SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

    Reader comments on Iranian Cinema:

  • Re: Iranian Movies - New Directors, New Directions   from Fritz Schranck, May 30, 2006
  • [Dead Heat under the Shrubs] in Raindance Film Fes   from World Iranian Film Center, Oct 2, 2004
  • Re: [Dead Heat under the Shrubs] in Raindance Film Fes   from Dariush Rayat, Dec 11, 2004

  • Post a comment on "Iranian Cinema"