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A taste of revolution

NARESH GULATI

Jaipur was the venue for some sensitive Iranian films.

In a season dotted with film festivals, what with Cannes having commenced recently and Guwahati hosting an International Film Festival, the Pink City of Jaipur isn't lagging behind. While a festival of romantic French films is on the past week saw the screening of five Iranian films, courtesy the Iranian Film Club and the Iran Cultural House at Delhi.

For a city that has earlier hosted film festivals under the aegis of the (now defunct) Drisha Film Society, Indo French Cultural Society and Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, it was the first occasion to see Iranian films in a representative - if not perhaps the best - selection of films from post-revolution Iran.

Titled "Beyond Chadors and Terror" and screened at the Jawahar Kala Kendra, the Festival featured the acclaimed works of directors like Abbas Kiarostami ("Taste of Cherry"), Majid Majidi ("Children of Heaven"), feminist filmmaker Tahmineh Milani ("Two Women"), Kiarostami's one-time assistant Jafar Panahi ("The Circle") and Samira Makhmalbaf ("The Blackboards").

Nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2000, Majidi's film was the obvious choice for the opening slot. The human interest story of the young brother-sister duo, it was a sensitive portrayal of how the two decide to manage with just one pair of shoes, the sister having lost hers.

Films with a cause

With the films coming from the country of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, one had heightened curiosity as to their stance and content.

On the second and third days came the films that vindicated the belief that artistes and filmmakers cannot but speak for freedom of the individual whatever the regime.

Together the films "Two Women" and "The Circle" put the focus on the plight of women in Iran.

Made in the nineties, the films unequivocally speak against the inequality of the women under the Muslim law, which is eased post-Khomeini.

Advocating in no uncertain terms a respectful treatment for women, "The Circle" uses a fable-like vision of "women fugitives dodging cops in a police state" to decry the restrictions imposed in terms of denial of unescorted travel, medical termination of pregnancy and the like.

"The Blackboards" on the fourth day came as a tribute to the `wandering' teachers of Iran. Braving even cross-border firing to accomplish their mission of teaching three R's they would venture out with children used as carriers across the borders. The film also captures the return of Kurdish refugees back to their homeland.

The most significant film of the festival, however, remained Abbas Kiarostami's "Taste of Cherry" both in terms of style and substance.

Equated with the works of such directors as Satyajit Ray and Jacques Tati and yet unique in their flavour, Kiarostami's films are considered both simple and conceptually complex. If any proof was required, it came amply in the self-reflexive "Taste of Cherry", particularly with its offbeat end.

A film not merely about suicide, but also life eternal, its protagonist Agha Badii is in search of someone who would bury him honourably following his suicide.

Badii has already found himself a hole on the outskirts of Teheran where he plans to lie after taking his dose of sleeping pills. And yet Badii wants someone to check next morning if he is still alive!

The film is a significant depiction of how people with different social backgrounds and age won't abet suicide, the lucrative price offered by Badii for the job notwithstanding; affirming thereby the universal truth of human life being the most precious gift of nature. And that suicide is never approved by Islam.

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