Saturday, August 9, 2014

Iranian Cinema @ Hibbleton Gallery

This month at Hibbleton Gallery, we are featuring a film series curated by award-winning filmmaker Steve Elkins entitled "An Introduction to Iranian Cinema."  We have watched two films so far, but have many more to go.  Regarding the cinema of Iran, Steve says: "For the last several decades, the world's most innovative, poetic, and intellectually engaging cinema has typically come from Iran."  We are meeting twice a week throughout the month, and will present the works of Iranian filmmakers, focusing especially on Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Dariush Mehrjui, Mania Akbari, Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Bahman Ghobadi, and Majid Majidi. All films begin at 8pm, following an introduction by film series curator Steve Elkins, who also leads a discussion afterwards.  These are the films we have watched so far, and the films we are going to watch, with descriptions by Steve:

On Monday, August 4th, we watched "This Is Not A Film" directed by Jafar Panahi (2011).  Shot secretly on an iPhone while Panahi was under house arrest for his previous films, and smuggled out of Iran in a birthday cake, Panahi's illegal film is a prayer for the present and future of Iranian cinema, for creative thinking over political tyranny, while he awaits a 6-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on filmmaking, interviews, and leaving the country. Watch the trailer HERE.

On Wednesday, August 6th, we watched "Kandahar, The Sun Behind The Moon" (2001).  Based on a true story of a woman who disguises herself in a burqa to sneak across the eastern deserts of Iran into Afghanistan to reach her sister (who was left behind when their family escaped the Taliban) after her sister reveals in a letter that she will commit suicide during the last solar eclipse of the 20th century. Shot secretly in Afghanistan and the Niatak Afghan refugee camp near Zahedan, the film magnificently depicts the conditions of life in the region where Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan intersect, and the courageous risks one woman is willing to take journeying through it to express the depth of her love for her sister. Co-starring Dawud Salahuddin, who assassinated an Iranian diplomat on US soil in 1980 (while pretending to be a mailman).  Watch the trailer HERE

On Monday, August 11th we will watch "A Moment Of Innocence" (1996).  As a seventeen-year-old, Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf stabbed a policeman at a protest rally and was jailed. Two decades later, Makhmalbaf made the decision to track down the policeman whom he had injured in an attempt to make amends. They agree to collaborate on a film in which they re-enact the stabbing from each of their perspectives, casting actors together to play their younger selves. Preparing the actors for their roles creates a kind of metaphysical space in which Makhmalbaf and the policeman are able to vicariously mentor their "younger selves" through the actors. The viewer quickly loses track of the distinction between fiction and reality as Makhmalbaf's "A Moment Of Innocence" cuts more and more seamlessly between the movie they are making and the making of the movie, to explore the complexities of memory, the ways we construct our sense of "self" and "others", and our innate capacity for forgiving deeply and creatively. 

On Wednesday, August 13th we will watch "Close-Up" (1990).  To complement our screening of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's brilliant "A Moment Of Innocence", in which Makhmalbaf tracks down a policeman he stabbed at a protest to collaborate on a film in which they re-enact the stabbing from each of their perspectives two decades later, tonight we present Abbas Kiarostami's utterly mesmerizing and groundbreaking "Close Up", in which Kiarostami tracks down a man on trial for pretending to be Makhmalbaf in public, then convinces all the people involved (the defendant, the trial judge, and the real Makhmalbaf himself) to play themselves in a movie about the trial, in the real courtroom as the real trial unfolds (!), changing everyone's perspectives of themselves, the trial, and it's outcome. "Close-Up" is a revolutionary and mind-bending demonstration of how malleable "reality" can be even in the most repressive and intolerant environments, the moment people are given a unique mirror of themselves. Abbas Kiarostami ("Taste Of Cherry", "The Wind Will Carry Us", "Through The Olive Trees"), had already created some of the most inventive and transcendent cinema of the past thirty years, and here he delivers a stunning, multilayered investigation into movies, identity, artistic creation, and existence that was startling to Western viewers for being far more philosophically complex and artistically sophisticated than anything being made in the Western world, despite coming from an authoritarian theocracy that the West had been indoctrinated into associating with clenched fists and burning effigies on TV news. This was an Iran where rich and poor could unite over a devout love of cinema, and where a turbaned Islamic judge could use love to effect a compassionate reconciliation between bitterly opposed legal antagonists. The film has to be seen to be believed. 

More films will be announced in the coming week.  Join the Facebook event HERE.  All screenings are FREE and begin around 8pm at Hibbleton Gallery.

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