Best Defense

The 2nd Iranian film festival in our house

A few years ago, my smart, eclectic son picked a bunch of interesting Iranian films for us to watch. Most memorable were The Color of Paradise, The White Balloon, and Children of Heaven. Interestingly, all three of those were about children — I read once that this was because Iranian directors couldn’t speak directly to ...

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A few years ago, my smart, eclectic son picked a bunch of interesting Iranian films for us to watch. Most memorable were The Color of Paradise, The White Balloon, and Children of Heaven. Interestingly, all three of those were about children — I read once that this was because Iranian directors couldn’t speak directly to politics, so instead filmed parables and allegories. Even so, those films reminded me a lot of the classic Italian movies of the late 1940s and early 1950s — realistic, tough and informed about the nature of life. (If you want more on that, watch Martin Scorsese’s terrific half-memoir, half-documentary, Personal Journey, which amounts to a master class on Italian film.) We never did get to Taste of Cherry, though, after my son said he had a lot of tolerance for ennui but not enough for this one.      

Now, in honor of the Iranian protestors, we’ve started another round of Iranian films. This time we’re focusing on films made over the last nine years. We started on Saturday with Offside, a modest film all the more striking for its smallness, about a handful of Iranian girls trying to sneak into a major soccer match. The movie was shot on the down low — it is not giving anything away to say that one scene, in which a policeman grabs a girl heading toward the soccer stadium, the policeman was real. The DVD is also worthwhile for the interview with the director, Jafar Panahi, who discusses how Iranian authorities told him he could make another film if he would agree to censor his previous ones. He declined, and so wound up making this one on the fly with video cameras. Minor defense-related angle: Panahi is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and his portrayal of soldiers in Offside has an insiders’ feel to it, especially the fair-minded corporal (I think) from rural Azerbaijan dealing with a bunch of the smooth-talking Tehranis. 

Last night we watched Half Moon, a spooky Kurdish film about music and determination. Best scene: The village of exiled female singers. Suffice it to say that is the most anti-Islamic Republic of Iran movie I’ve ever seen.

Next up: Crimson Gold and Baran. As my wife pointed out, these powerful works of art are evocative of the soulful classics made in Poland under and against the Communist regime-Kanal, Man of Iron, and such.  

misterarasmus/flickr 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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