When it comes to Iranian cinema, the names of Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf loom large. However, there are many more names which have captured the attention of festival audiences over the last decade such as Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi and Bahman Ghobadi. I recently realized that all the Iranian films I had seen were post 1990, even though there are many worthy cinematic works available pre-1990. This was a similar situation to the one I found myself in last year with regards to South Korean cinema when I had not seen anything from South Korea prior to 1990. I was able to rectify the pre-1990 South Korean cinema gap this year thanks to the Auteurs availability of Kim Ki-young’s Housemaid. So it was time to throw the net out and grab some pre-1990 Iranian films along with other works. In that regard, I came up with the following list of 10 films for a spotlight:
The Cow (1969, Dariush Mehrjui)
The Cyclist (1987, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
The Suitors (1989, Ghasem Ebrahimian)
Close-up (1990, Abbas Kiarostami)
Gabbeh (1996, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
The Mirror (1997, Jafar Panahi)
The Pear Tree (1998, Dariush Mehrjui)
Delbaran (2001, Abolfazl Jalili)
The Fish Fall in Love (2005, Ali Raffi)
It’s Winter (2006, Rafi Pitts)
All the films were engaging but if I had to pick out one favourite, it would have to be Rafi Pitts beautiful It’s Winter. The shots of a character against the snowy background in It’s Winter did not remind me of any Iranian film I had seen but made me think of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s fascinating Distant.
One interesting aspect about The Fish Fall in Love is that the camera lovingly lingers a big longer on the food, be it stuffed fish, rice or kebabs. I cannot remember seeing food being the focus in any other Iranian film so it was nice to see how the restaurant scenes were incorporated around the framework of two love stories.