Forough's KHANEH SIAH AST and Mehrjui's GAAV

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Time: 06:30 PM
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Alwan for the Arts and 3rd i Collaborative Monthly Series Presents:

Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema: Book Discussion and

Signing with Hamid Dabashi

And Screening of

The House Is Black (Khaneh Siah Ast) by Forugh Farrokhzad/ Iran/

1964/ 22 min

The Cow (Gaav) by Dariush Mehrjui/ Iran/ 1969/100 min

Tuesday, November 20, 2007. 6:30 PM Two Boots Pioneer Theater

155 East 3rd Street (at Avenue A)

Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker

Tickets: $10 Adults / $6.50 Pioneer Members

The House Is Black by Forugh Farrokhzad/ Iran/ 1962/ 22 min/ Farsi

with English Subtitles

A classic in Iranian New Wave filmmaking from poet/ director Forugh

Farrokhzad presents a haunting and sympathetic examination of life in

a Tabriz leper colony. Through powerful imagery and a striking voice-

over by Farrokhzad, a startling glimpse into a hidden aspect of

humanity is revealed. A film of staggering force, lyrically composed

by one of the 20th century's leading poets, The House Is Black is a

revelation. In the 1960s, poet Forough Farrokhzad directed her first

and only film. It depicts the lives and bodies of people tragically

deformed by leprosy. This is a film of stirring and powerful images,

and a beautifully tragic poetic narration. The House Is Black has

heavily influenced the modern Iranian cinema of such great filmmakers

as Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who called it "the best

Iranian film." It provides, in the film's own words, "a vision of

pain no caring human being should ignore."

Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967) was born in Tehran into a middle class

family of seven children. Author of several volumes of poetry that

are hallmarks of contemporary Persian literature. In 1967 she

tragically died in a car accident. She was associated with the film

industry in Iran through the filmmaker Ebrahim Golestan, House is

Black is the only film she directed.

The Cow by Dariush Mehrjui/ Iran/ 1969/100 min Farsi with English


This highly symbolic Iranian drama (shot in black-and-white) revolves

around the most important figure in a remote rural village. That

figure is the village's sole cow, owned by Mashdi Hassan (Ezat

Entezani). The beginning of the film makes clear just how vital the

cow is to the life of the village and how much Mashdi and his

neighbors cherish it. When the cow is threatened and then killed by

members of a nearby clan, Mashdi becomes so distraught that he is

gradually transformed into a cow himself.

The Cow (Gaw), Dariush Mehrjui/'s second feature brought him national

and international recognition and it is one of the films that

signalled the emergence of Iranian New Cinema. The Cow was among the

very first projects to receives state funding, however, it was banned

by the Shah's censors for the dark images of Iranian rural society.

The film was smuggled to 1971 Venice Film Festival and not officially

in the festival's program and unsubtitled, it turned out to be the

event of festival that year. The Cow received the Critics' Award in

Venice and toured the festival circuit the world over.

Dariush Mehrjui was born on December 8, 1939 in Tehran. As a child,

he was deeply involved in music and painting, playing piano and

santoor and drawing miniatures. In 1959, he left for California to

study cinema with Renoir but then he switched to Philosophy and

graduated from UCLA in 1964 and became one Iran's most influential

directors, with more than 20 films to his credit.

Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema by Hamid Dabashi/ Mage

Publishers/ 456 Pages/ 2007

The rise of Iranian cinema to world prominence over the last few

decades is one of the most fascinating cultural stories of our time.

There is scarcely an international film festival anywhere that does

not honor the aesthetic and political explorations of Iranian

artists. Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema celebrates this

remarkable emergence. It focuses on twelve of the most important

Iranian filmmakers of the past half-century—among them, such pioneers

as Forugh Farrokhzad, Dariush Mehrjui, Abbas Kiarostami, and Jafar

Panahi. In his examination of their lives and their greatest works,

Hamid Dabashi explains how, despite the censorship of both the

Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic Republic, the creativity of these

filmmakers has transcended national and cultural borders. His account

traces the ascendancy of Iranian cinema in modern Iranian

intellectual history and also probes its links to Persian poetry,

fiction, art, and philosophy.

In Europe and in North America, in Asia and in Latin America, in

Australia and Africa, the thematic and narrative richness of Iranian

cinema has met with tremendous acclaim. Indeed, its particular modes

of realism—building on such cinematic antecedents as Italian, French

and German neorealism—have become truly transnational, contributing a

new visual vocabulary to filmmaking everywhere. Masters &

Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema studies the role that prominent film

festivals have played in fostering the global success of Iranian

cinema, and investigates the reception of these films within Iran, an

intriguing story in its own right. This is a book that will reward

not only the scholar and the film aficionado but also anyone

interested in the cultural history of modern Iran.

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and

Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, the oldest

and most prestigious Chair in Iranian Studies. Professor Dabashi has

written 12 critically acclaimed books, edited 4, and contributed

chapters to many more. He is also the author of over 100 essays,

articles and book reviews in major scholarly and peer reviewed

journals on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, Shi'ism, Medieval

and Modern Islamic Intellectual History, Comparative Literature,

World Cinema, Trans-aesthetics, Trans-national Art, Philosophy,

Mysticism, Theology, Post-colonial Theory and Cultural Studies.


Iran's cinematic evolution, before and after the revolution of 1979,

is as rich as any country's; however, despite boasting numerous film

awards and international critical acclaim, the country's output

remains relatively unknown—even to cineastes. "What is Iranian

cinema?" is as logical a question as "Why is it underexposed?" This

book by Dabashi (Iranian studies & comparative literature, Columbia

Univ.) takes the form of a letter to a young filmmaker but eschews

the colloquial for a scholarly approach. He chronologically

highlights directors, discussing a key work in each person's oeuvre

and its place in Iranian and world cinema. Dabashi also explores the

development of Iranian cinema objectively and subjectively via the

people who created it, without the need for restrictive answers. He

considers Iranian cinema representative of a living world cinema and

will let "the bored historians of the future worry about its dead

certainties." Given its academic approach, Dabashi's book is highly

recommended for universities, large public libraries, and those with

extensive focuses in film or cultural history."


--Library Journal

To anyone with a knowledge of Iranian cinema, the 12 film-makers

covered here will come as no surprise, with perhaps only Ebrahim

Golestan, Arby Ovanessian and Bahman Famanara unfamiliar in the west.

Hamid Dabashi devotes a chapter to each director and the film he

considers best represents their work, each written in the form of a

letter addressed to a young Iranian born after the 1979 revolution.

Taken together, the essays outline Dabashi’s view of the evolution of

Iranian cinematic realism and in the process provide a highly

readable narrative.

The book was prompted by Dabashi’s reflections on the nihilism of

many of today’s young film-makers in comparison with the earlier

Iranian cinema with which he grew up. He recognises that important

cinematic movements often arise out of moments of national trauma but

thought that the standard question of how the Islamic Republic has

produced so many visionary film-makers needed more exploration. “What

is it about [this] realism, which is neither reducible to its

European counterparts nor limited to its colonial origins?” he asks.

“Where were its origins, whence its disposition, how had it come

about, who were its best representatives and why?”

This leads him to postulate an evolution of realist forms from

Forough Fanokhzad, the pioneering female poet whose The House Is

Black (1961) he describes as poetic realism, through Ebrahim Golestan

(whose 1965 Mud Brick and Mirror is labelled affective realism) and

the “psychedelic realism” of Dariush Mehrjui’s The Cow (1968).


three, he demonstrates, are directly influenced by classical writers.

He then investigates Arby Ovanessian (spatial realism), whose 1972

film Spring he recommends his readers to watch with the sound off,

Bahram Farmanara (Prince Ehtejab, 1974; narrative realism). Sohrab

Shahidsales (Still Life, 1974; transparent realism). Amir Naderi (The

Runner, 1985; visual realism), Bahram Beizai (Bashu, the Little

Stranger, 1990; mythical realism), Abbas Kiarostami (Through the

Olive Trees, 1994; actual realism). Mohsen Makhmalbaf (A Moment of

Innocence, 1995; virtual realism), Marziyeh Meshkini (The Day I

Became a Woman, 2000;parabolic realism) and Jafar Panahi (Crimson

Gold, 2003; visual realism). He classes Panahi as one of the

beneficiaries of “an opulent visual vocabulary delivered to them on a

silver platter... surpassing the lone and illustrious history of our

verbal memories,” So the evolution of visual realism is now complete.

Dabashi’s analysis and description of these realisms, via Persian

poetry, literature sad philosophy, the globalising influence of

European modernity “through the gun barrel of colonialism”, Reza


Pahlavi, a (failed) revolution, Kubrick, the Cannes film festival,

western critics, walks in New York and much else, make for a complex

and witty account. And his theory is for the most part convincing:

his contention that Iranian realism “is rooted in the particularity

of our cultural modernity” is surely proven. He is critical of

western writing that, he insists, “has generated and sustained an

entirely false conception of Iranian cinema around the world.” French

critics in particular, he contends. “have cut and pasted the nature

of Iranian cinematic aesthetics according to some abstract notion of

cinema they have cooked up at Cahiers du cinéma.”

Masters & Masterpieces should make us review our assumptions next

time we view an Iranian film and whet our curiosity as to how

contemporary film-makers might take this visual heritage forward.

--Sheila Whitaker, Sight & Sound

“Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema offers a remarkable

overview of Iranian cinema and the directors who have transformed the

shape of Iranian culture in modern history. With his superb authority

on the social and political history of the region, Dabashi provides a

tour de force of the artistic developments in Iran over the past half

a century and thus beautifully lays out the alluring dynamic between

Iranian art and politics. Perhaps the most significant accomplishment

of this marvelous book is Dabashi’s refusal to limit the importance

of Iranian cinema to its regional domain, as he consistently

cultivates its global prominence.”

—Shirin Neshat, film & video artist,

director of Women without Men

“For over a decade Hamid Dabashi’s revelations have been as

instrumental in the fashioning of my own cinema as Naderi,

Kiarostami, Bresson, or Rossellini. Dabashi brilliantly weaves

together Iranian cinema, literature, history, philosophy, and

politics in a national and global setting, and lovingly and

masterfully guides his readers to cultural and aesthetic insights. If

Iranian cinema brought the world a “poetic” vision of modern Iran,

Dabashi has done no less in this piercing analysis.”

—Ramin Bahrani, filmmaker,

director of Man Push Cart>

Reviewed/approved by 7rooz Admin Staff.


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