In general, many Iranian films remind me of the popular films of the 1930s and 1940s in the US. They lack the graphic sex and violence of our contemporary films, but tell a story. Others have a tone similar to movies from the 1960s where we were invited to sympathize with female characters who defied the roles assigned them, but who ultimately paid for their transgressions.
All films must be vetted by the government before they can be released. The women are all depicted wearing Chadors and Abbyas, in some cases even in bed in their homes. Many of the films highlight women’s issues. I wonder i women aren’t the primary demographic for film-goers in Iran. Producers and directors tell stories about the ways in which they circumvented government censors to tell their stories.
Teenage boys become friends while incarcerated. One is scheduled to be executed for murder, the other released. The one who has been freed, meets the other boy’s sister, and attempts to get the victim’s father to accept ‘blood money’ so his friend won’t have to die. A look at the lives of the poor in Iran, and at the ironies created by a legal system in some ways very different than our own.
Under the Moonlight
A spoiled, and very intelligent young seminary student with a bright ‘political’ future is having trouble with his commitment, but following through to avoid hurting his family when a young thief introduces him to some of Tehran’s hidden suffering. This film visualizes a part of Iranian society we see as a monolithic barrier from a human standpoint. It reminds me of films from the 1940s about the challenges of the priesthood.
A delightful film about a young widow who chooses independence rather than entering the household of her overbearing brother-in-law as is customary. A film that exposes an aspect of Iranian culture that undermines women’s independence.
Bashu the Little Stranger
A great film about a little boy who looses his parents in the war, travels far, and finally finds a home with a generous and independent housewife.
Under the Skin of the City
The story of a woman who supports her family by working at a factory. We see the various family members dealing with their issues and with one another. I really liked this film. It is an ‘urban drama’ with interesting characters, and some light moments to keep it from becoming too heavy.
This is a pretty famous Iranian film about women who find themselves on the streets, and the socio-cultural forces that trap them there. Personally, I didn’t like it as well as some of the others. The tone reminds me of a Lifetime Movie about teenage prostitutes.
Enthusiastic teenage girls use a variety of ruses to sneak into a big Soccer Game because women aren’t allowed to attend public sports events. They find themselves penned behind the scenes with a group of soldiers close to their own age guarding them. The chemistry is great.
An interesting film. Marketed as a romantic comedy about a successful middle aged post-revolutionary landlord who risks it all for an independent, westernized young woman. But the film ends with a harsh criticism of the hypocrisy and nepotism of some apparently pious supporters of the incoming religious government.
The Unwanted Woman
A woman finds that her husband is having an affair. He decides to take a vacation with his girlfriend and brings the wife along for cover.
The Hidden Half
A woman married to a prominent lawyer confesses her hidden political past to him when she hears that he is defending a woman who is a notorious political prisoner scheduled for execution.
Leila marries the man of her dreams. When she finds out that she cannot have children, her life becomes a nightmare as her manipulative mother-in-law pressures her to let her husband take a second wife so that she can have grandchildren. Another interesting commentary on a culture very different from our own.
Two women who become friends in college, and then their lives take very different turns. A comment on the diversity of the culture as it affects the lives and prospects of women.
Kurdish Iranian Films
The next 3 films have the same director. All are colorful and exquisitely textured depictions of the lives of Kurdish peasants in the harshly beautiful countryside of Kurdish Iraq and Iran.
A Time for Drunken Horses
A sadly beautiful film that depicts the hard lives of native Kurds living in the countryside of northern Iraq.
Turtles Can Fly
A heartbreaking film about orphan children in Kurdish Northern Iraq after the Iran/Iraq war.
Marooned in Iraq
A somewhat lighter film than the previous 2. An Iranian father and son go from Kurdish Iran to Iraq to look for the father’s long lost love. Love stories are intertwined with the interactions of the two men with various friends, enemies and strangers along the road.
Artistic and Outward Looking Films
A very beautiful and romantic film tracing the relationship of an elderly couple from the first time they met in the girl’s nomadic tribe. Reflects the ancient tribal culture and also aspects of Iranian culture in general.
A desperate man accepts a wager based on how long he can continue to ride a bicycle. His young son is an observer. The cyclist is cynically manipulated by men betting on his success or failure. Images of rapidly disappearing aspects of Iranian culture and society.
A beautiful and richly imaged film made by an Iranian Producer and Director, with a Canadian star, an American in a featured role, and populated by the native Afghanis of the border town where most of the film was made. It is a reflection on the devastation caused by the disastrous Russian occupation and the subsequent rule by Taliban Islamists. Ironically, the film was used as propaganda when it came out, by US and Canadian governments, in order to support the American Invasion of Afghanistan.
Children of Heaven
A delightful film reminiscent of depression era films about children in the US. A young boy, accidentally loses his sister’s shoe. Since the children don’t want to burden their already overwhelmed parents with the problem, they share a pair of shoes so they can both go to school. When this solution becomes cumbersome, the young man attempts to win a pair of shoes in a contest at school.
The White Balloon
Another delightful film about the adventures of young children dealing with life on their own.
The Color of Paradise
A beautiful and moving film about a blind boy.
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates
A playful romp through Iranian history beginning with contact with the Russian, British and French, and moving in to the present, which is viewed through a critical lense.
Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution
Great journey through the world of Iranian Cinema since the Revolution. Shows how a wonderful burst of creativity overwhelmed the often clumsy and ignorant government intervention and censorship.
I just loved this film about a single mother, struggling for survival, who decides to run for president in the election that led to Mohammad Khatami’s second term in office. Two themes are intertwined, the adoring followers of Khatami among the affluent members of the upper middle class, and the contrasting life of the young woman who would be president, but who is currently dealing with serious survival issues.