Tag: iranian

A Separation

A Separation (2011)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Together for fourteen years, Simin (Leila Hatami) filed a divorce against Nader (Peyman Moadi) because she was convinced that their daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), could have better future abroad. Nader, adamant that Termeh could flourish in Iran, wouldn’t sign the papers and the judge believed that Simin’s reason for getting a divorce was simply not an irreconcilable difference. Simin moved back to her mother’s house which meant Nader’s father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, needed a new caretaker. Recommended by Simin’s friend, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), with child for four months, was hired last-minute by the desperate Nader, a decision that proved to be more trouble than what he bargained for. “A Separation,” written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, captured human drama at its finest because the filmmakers were able to present conflict as is, from the beauty and ugliness of strong relationships to the uncertainty of new ones, without using a typical dramatic parabola as a crutch to make the material more digestible. From its opening scene, the screenplay bristled with implications. For instance, the husband and wife faced the camera, the judge, as they tried to convince him that their respective side was right. Although we heard the judge’s voice, not once did we have a chance to lay eyes on him. In other words, the writer-director forced us to take the role of the arbiter, trusting us that we were capable of listening, wise enough to be aware that each side had their share of truths and inaccuracies, and consider that perhaps it was too soon to submit a final evaluation of what scant information we’ve been handed. Its opening scene was so important in setting the tone and level of intelligence of the rest of the picture, every time an important event occurred, I found myself looking back at Simin and Nader’s faces as they tried to communicate their sadness and anger while grappling with the fact that they still cared for one another. I admired that the spouses were not caricatures in that they were constantly out to get each other and readily available for yet another irritating screaming match just because one thing did not go his or her way. It was easy to feel that a divorce did not simply mean a chance to erase what they had. These were smart and sensitive adults with real values and principles. We may not always understand or agree where they were coming from, but that was a part of the film’s theme: the attempt to put oneself in another person’s shoes and how tragic it can be for us, as well as for those closest to us, if we choose to treat or think of others like they are less than. Ultimately, despite verbal exchanges so full of rage and vitriol, the film was an advocate of peace: peace in terms of our relationship with those who are strangers to us, with people we learned to care about, and, perhaps more importantly, peace in our own minds. Can we truly lead a happy life without peace of mind? Have you ever had a day when you constantly found yourself looking over your shoulder? I did, for about six months, and it was such a dark period in my life, I considered several escape routes that scared me to the bone. Even now, just thinking about it, I remain grateful to have persisted. If there was anything I learned from that experience, it was that having and enjoying a peace of mind is a state so evanescent, keeping it requires hard work. “Jodaeiye Nader az Simin” posed big questions by focusing on two small families, but it offered no convenient answer. Even through the credits, I found my ears begging to hear one. Like its knack toward delivering suspense but avoiding cheap thrills, there was not a cheap answer here. What we get from the experience is equal to what we put into it.

No One Knows About Persian Cats

No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Negar (Negar Shaghaghi) and Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad), Iranian musicians recently released from jail, shared a similar passion in music. They wanted put their passion into action so they formed an indie rock band and, with Nader’s (Hamed Behdad) help, obtained visas and passports so they could play internationally. But since their government had a strict policy toward pop music, the three had to go through an underground culture in which getting caught by the authorities meant spending a long time in jail. “I can’t live without music” is a common phrase among teens and young adults and this film gave that saying a certain importance. It showed what great lengths Negar and Ashkan were willing to go through to live a less tethered existence and be immersed in something they simply loved doing. By observing the duo and the various underground bands they encountered, we could appreciate the freedoms most of us take for granted. Placing the cameras in the narrow alleys and not bothering to sharpen blurred images, the picture had an authentic feel. The roughness worked to its advantage because there were times when it felt like a bootleg copy, the same bootlegs that drove forward the underground movement. Although I have a penchant for indie rock, I was glad that it wasn’t the only type of music featured in the film. In order to make sure its message was universal, it showcased other genres like jazz, hard rock, pop, hip-hop, rap, and even world music. As each genre took center stage, the images shown and the style in which they were presented adapted a different energy not dissimilar to watching a music video. Like the film’s subject matter, it felt progressive because the boundary between music and film was challenged. The genres were different from one another but the messages within the songs shared certain themes: The oppression the young adults felt from their government, their love for their friends and families, and the anger that resulted from the marginalization of women and the poor. While the danger of getting caught was always prevalent, it still had a great sense of humor. For instance, Negar and Ashkan visited a farm where a group rehearsed their aggressive hard rock. One of the workers claimed that ever since they started rehearsing there, the cows stopped eating, giving milk, and bothering to get up and move around. I thought it was very amusing because when I hear aggressive hard rock, metal, or screamo, it’s like listening to hyperactive children banging on pots and pans as they screamed to the top of their lungs. “Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh” or “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” directed by Bahman Ghobadi, felt small but revolutionary. But all revolutions start out small.