can find some rather unpleasant images and references in the text books of post-Islamic
Revolutionary Iran. Nobody understands that better than an Iranian-Persian
filmmaker’s Persian tutor. However, he still uses a problematic text due to a
lack of better options. His language lessons will illuminate deeper truths in
Sanaz Azari’s I for Iran (trailer here), which screens
during the Museum of the Moving Image’s 2015 First Look.
was born in Iran, but lived in Brussels since early childhood. As a result, she
did not speak Persia until she enrolled in classes as an adult. During her
studies, she was struck by the way language carries cultural specific codes and
meanings. This was particularly so with respects to Persia and Iranian
identity, even and especially following the revolution. As he bemoans their
textbook, Behrouz Majidi will expound on the beauties and ironies of Persian
culture in a series of improvised lectures.
might sound rather academic, but Majidi is the sort of screen presence who
could read the Brussels phone book and keep the audience riveted. His delivery
is sort of like vintage Mark Twain—drily witty and deceptively elliptical. Just
when you think he is hopelessly off point, he brings each mini-monologue home
with panache. At times he waxes nostalgic for lost Iranian treasures, like the
storied Shirazi wine the Islamist government has long since forbidden. When he addresses
current events, such as the 2013 presidential elections, his analysis also
sounds pretty darn spot-on.
that means Majidi is more of a realist than an optimist. However, his love for
Persian culture and nostalgia for the Iran that once was is wholly engaging and
at times quite touching. In between his
improvised riffs, Azari presents a sort of visual free association based on the
particular Persian letter under discussion. Frankly, these seem to work better
over time, with the latter chain of images taking on far more evident meaning. Still,
for the most part, they just take viewers away from the heart of the film.
for Iran might sound simple and in
terms of its formal structure it certainly is. However, despite its mere fifty
minute running time, it overflows with thoughtful insights on human nature and
grand themes like freedom, cultural survival, and human dignity. For such an
unassuming film, it really sticks with viewers. Even though it is hard to
define its cinematic category and the exact nature of Majidi’s performance, it
still ought to be a star-making turn. Surprisingly moving, I for Iran is very highly recommended when it screens this Saturday
(1/17), with the equally difficult to classify International Tourism as part of this year’s First Look at MoMI.
Labels: Belgian Cinema, First Look '15, Iran