Films Focus on a Persian Perspective

Posted January 20, 2010 at 4:41pm

An Iranian-Afghan romance, a re-creation of a Persian theatrical experience and Anton Chekhov — a little bit of everything is covered in a series of upcoming film festivals.

The Freer and Sackler Galleries’ Iranian Film Festival, which kicked off Jan. 8 and will continue through Feb. 21, runs the gamut from social commentary to veiled political statements. This weekend, the museum will screen a performance of the Ta’ziyeh, a traditional Persian theater piece. The play will be shown on one screen, but the audience will be able to watch footage of an Iranian audience as it also views the play. It is meant to be an emotionally powerful experience, according to Freer and Sackler film programmer Tom Vick.

Other films include “Two-Legged Horse— from director Samira Makhmalbaf. This is the story of a rich boy who cannot walk, so he hires a poor boy to carry him. The theme of the film is the corruption of power, according to Vick, but he said Makhmalbaf had to be creative in her approach.

“She has to be careful, so she treats the subject in a very allegorical way,— Vick said.

Makhmalbaf and other Iranian filmmakers are held to strict regulations and cannot be openly critical of the government and its policies.

“There are a lot of rules they have to follow, and they can’t make explicitly political statements unless they plan to leave the country,— Vick said.

Because of this, several filmmakers take on the role of “questioning social values and customs.—

In the film “Heiran,— which will be shown Feb. 19 and 21, a Persian girl falls in love with an Afghan student but comes under pressure from her family members, who don’t approve of the match.

Another film, “Niloofar,— is about a girl who learns to read in secret and dreams of becoming educated, but whose father arranges for her to be married instead.

Tickets to all of the films are free and are given out an hour before showtime. Vick said seats tend to fill quickly and advised arriving early, as some are occasionally turned away.

Iranian films are not the only ones being shown around town. The Goethe-Institut will host the seven-day Film|Neu festival, which begins Friday. “Berlin Calling,— about a drug-addicted DJ, will be shown Friday at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Features from Austria, Germany and Switzerland will be screened throughout the week. All movies will be shown at Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Tickets are $25 on opening night, including admission to the show and a Berliner party at the Goethe-Institut. Tickets for other shows are $10.

In addition, the National Gallery of Art is celebrating Chekhov’s 150th birthday by presenting a series of films based on his writing. The festival runs through Feb. 13. Among the films being shown are “Uncle Vanya— and “The Lady With the Dog.— Tickets to all screenings are free.