of Muslim cab drivers refusing service to blind passengers with guide dogs made
headlines in Minneapolis and Saskatchewan, but the resulting hand-wringing
would have baffled Iran’s theocrats. Dog ownership is forbidden in Iran (under
pain of 74 lashes), because canines are considered “unclean” accordingly to
Islamist teachings. However, it is not as if dogs no longer exist in Iran.
Sadly, when a decent henpecked Iranian husband accidentally hits a stray with his
car, it causes a moral dilemma he is powerless to resolve in Bahram &
Bahman Ark’s short film, The Unclean (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 Socially Relevant Film Festival.
probably never had a hope of seeing the poor dog as he was driving home through
Tehran’s poorly illuminated streets, but he sure felt the sickening bump. Not
the type to hit-and-run, Naser bundles up the bloodied animal and somehow
manages to get him to a veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, it has no in-patient
facilities, leaving Nasr two choices. He can either have the dog put down or he
can have him treated, but he would have to find a safe place for him to
recuperate. Obviously, his gossip-sensitive wife will never allow an unclean
animal in the house. Nor will his anyone else in his limited circle of acquaintances.
his namesake, Naser Hashemi’s performance is absolutely devastating, in a
quiet, unassuming sort of way. He straightforwardly and viscerally conveys the
anguish of an everyman who tries to act humanely, but is undermined by ideology
and circumstance, yet will carry the resulting sense of guilt nonetheless.
Frankly, this film is a tragedy for both man and dog.
Unclean might sound
relatively small in scope, but it makes a powerful statement. The film’s low-fi
nocturnal look also rather appropriately fits Naser’s long dark night of the
soul, giving viewers a sense of how menacing the streets of Tehran can feel
during the late night hours. It is the sort of film that hits you on a gut
level, but it might be too much for sensitive dog people to take.
is also quite of bit of harrowing imagery in the festival’s other Iranian short,
but Yahya Gobadi’s animated Tears
largely decontextualizes the time and place, making it more of a timeless
fable. Nevertheless, it depicts the traumas of war quite vividly through the
eyes of a child (who gets little help from the surviving adults around her
after her parents are killed in a bombing raid).
Stylistically, the animation of Tears is somewhat akin to the more
grounded passages of The Wall.
Visually, it is distinctive, but Unclean
is a far more personal and directly immediate film. Highly recommended, Unclean screens Sunday afternoon (3/22)
at the Quad Cinema and the well-meaning Tears
screens this Friday (3/20) at the Tribeca Cinemas, as part of short film
programs at the Socially Relevant Film Festival.
Labels: Iranian Cinema, Short Films, SR '15