is the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but since Iran is
still a man’s world, he could get away clean, nonetheless. However, the grouchy
old cab-driver is too compassionate for that. A fateful fare could have serious
long-term implications in Reza Mirkarimi’s Today
here), which screens during this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival.
is the type a cabbie who will just toss out customers if they rub him the wrong
way. Yet, he takes pity on the extremely pregnant and considerably panicked
Sedigheh. He will even schlep her into the hospital, despite suspecting she has
no money for the fare. At this point, he could safely bolt according to Iranian
law (as we are later told), but he stays nonetheless.
is quickly apparent Sedigheh has been physically abused and has neglected her
pre-natal care as a result. Naturally, the hospital staff silently accuses
Youness. Despite the awkwardness and potential legal ramifications, he accepts
their contempt, for Sedigheh’s sake, because as an unaccompanied pregnant
woman, she would be even further marginalized by the Iranian medical system.
its face, Today is a deceptively simple
issue-oriented drama, but it makes a deeply eloquent statement on contemporary
Iranian society. It is a lot like A Separation with a more fully developed social conscience. It is a bit
surprising Iran selected it as their foreign language Oscar submission and
utterly baffling how it could miss the shortlist cut. You would had to have
seen a heck of a lot of films this year to find nine better than Today.
it is too subtle. You really have to pay attention to what is said and what is
left unsaid to fully appreciate the positions Youness and Sedigheh are in. It
is also fascinating how ghosts from the past loom over the film in strange and
unlikely ways. For instance, the hospital in question lacks the latest medical
equipment, because it was once part of a larger triage center during the
Iran-Iraq War, but has yet to be retrofitted after the adjoining building was
cheap theatrics, Parviz Parastui puts on a clinic in how to say more with less
as the taciturn Youness. It is a quiet performance, but he has the audience
hanging on his every word and gesture. In contrast, Soheila Golestani’s
guileless directness and vulnerability are quite arresting. Watching them feels
like being there in that slightly shabby hospital in Tehran. That might not
sound like a lot of fun, but the net effect is hard to shake off.
is about as character-driven as films get, it is still quite an impressive
feat of direction. Mirkarimi has quite a lot of traffic to manage, sort of like
a stage farce, except it is deadly serious. It is too bad he will not be
getting any Academy love this time around, especially since his previous film A Cube of Sugar had been selected as
Iran’s Oscar submission two years ago, until the Islamist government decided to
boycott in protest of a low rated youtube video. This is a potent film that
directly advocates breaking the pernicious cycle of abuse, but it is probably too
complicated for daytime talk show hosts to understand. Highly recommended for
everyone else, Today screens this
Friday (1/2) and Tuesday (1/6) as part of this year’s PSIFF.
Labels: Iranian Cinema, PSIFF '15, Reza Mirkarimi