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Marriage is supposed to be a celebration, but it's a criminal enterprise for two of the characters in this Iranian heist comedy. Reminiscent of
Take the Money and Run
, Syrus Alvand's film follows Siamak, a wedding photographer who plans to rob his next ceremony with the help of his siblings. Unbeknownst to Siamak, his own father-in-law-to-be has enlisted a hood named Bad Nasser to tail him, and of course Nasser wants in on the loot. In Farsi with English subtitles. Syrus Alvand---Iran---2000---100 mins.
In this breezy domestic comedy and Iranian box office smash, Donya (Hediyeh Tehrani) returns from America to discover that it is not easy to find a place to live in modern-day Tehran. Eventually, she hires Haji (Mohammad Reza Sharifinia), the well-to-do owner of a realty company, to help her out. Though a traditional conservative and much older than Donya, Haji falls for his attractive new client. Haji's newly stirred passions prompt him to do things he might not ordinarily do, including updating his clothing style, cutting his hair, and sending his wife and family on a vacation to get them out of the way. "A satisfying human comedy... Tehrani continues to impress in a perfectly cast role that brings out her cool grace and alluring sexiness" (
). In Farsi with English subtitles. Manouchehr Mosayeri---Iran---2003---105 mins.
Two explosive, shocking, and profound films from Amos Gitai. Set mostly in the West Bank before and during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon (some scenes were also shot there),
(1982, 83 mins.) explores, as the film states it, "how the occupation manifests itself, and how violence against the Palestinians is legitimized." With its in-your-face interference with soldiers and its unique and profoundly haunting counterpoint of sound and image,
is a daring and brutally on-the-edge film. In
Arena of Murder
(1996, 80 mins.), Gitai investigates the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin three weeks after the event. He travels through the country for several months, filming random encounters to paint a melancholic portrait of a country in turmoil. In Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles. Amos Gitai---Israel/France---1982, 1996---163 mins.
GIRL IN THE SNEAKERS
The love between two Iranian teens sparks opposition from their parents and strict Islamic law in this snapshot of first love and youthful rebellion. Forbidden by her parents to ever see her boyfriend Aideen again, young Tadaie runs away from home to find him, thus beginning a fascinating journey though the streets of Tehran. "Poetic" (
). In Farsi with English subtitles. Rassul Sadr-Ameli---Iran---1999---110 mins.
GOLEM: THE PETRIFIED GARDEN
A revelation from one of the world's great filmmakers. Amos Gitai turns his iconoclastic gaze to the collapse of the Soviet Union in a magnificent, wry, and oddly humorous film that stretches across the vast Russian plain. Daniel is an art dealer with bases in New York, Tel Aviv, and Paris. He inherits a collection in Birobidzhan, the autonomous Soviet Jewish Republic in the far reaches of Siberia. Daniel embarks on a trip to find the collection, including a gigantic statue of a Golem, by whatever means necessary. As he travels, he glimpses the painful aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse. This brilliant epic stars Jerome Koenig, with supporting roles by B-movie legend Sam Fuller (
Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss
) and Fassbinder's muse Hanna Schygulla (
The Marriage of Maria Braun
). In English and other languages, with Amos Gitai---France/Israel/Russia---1993---84 mins.
HOUSE / HOUSE IN JERUSALEM
Two extremely simple yet utterly profound films, exploring the history of a house in East Jerusalem as a microcosm for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the first film,
(1980), a Euro-Israeli Professor has purchased the house from an aging Algerian-Israeli couple. An Israeli contractor rehabs the house with Palestinian laborers. Meanwhile, the filmmakers seek out the house's pre-1948 owner. Produced and then censored by Israeli television,
was saved from the dustbin of history by its director, Amos Gitai (
). Almost twenty years later, Gitai returns to the house, revisits the families of the pre-1948 owner, and explores some of the same issues in
A House in Jerusalem
(1997). In English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.
Amos Gitai---Israel/France---1980/1997---148 mins.
HOUSE IS BLACK, THE
A revelation of staggering force, lyrically composed by one of the 20th century's leading poets, Forough Farrokhzad. Her first and only film, it depicts the lives and bodies of people tragically deformed by leprosy. A film of stirring and powerful images, and a beautifully, tragically poetic narration that heavily influenced the modern Iranian cinema of 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." In Farsi with English subtitles.
Forough Farrokhzad---Iran---1962---22 mins.
ISA: THE PEOPLE'S DIVA
Isa Kremer lived life to the fullest as the premier singer of authentic Yiddish songs. The first woman to perform Yiddish songs on the concert stage, she legitimized the language as a valid and vital part of Jewish culture. A classically trained opera star, Isa acted out these folk tunes using her voice, gestures, and mannerisms, offering emotional and dramatic interpretations. Using rare footage, hundreds of photos, and interviews with friends, family members, performers, and scholars,
Isa: The People’s Diva
chronicles Kremer’s life across five decades. Not only did her career parallel some of the 20th-century’s most tumultuous events--the Russian Revolution, the rise of Nazism, and the volatile politics of South America--her career was directly affected by their outcome. Despite personal trauma and political turmoil, Kremer never backed down from controversy, took the easy path, or surrendered to pressure to stop performing in Yiddish.
Isa: The People’s Diva
reclaims the legacy of this complex, passionate woman, who transcended both time and geographic borders, from the lost pages of history. “[Kremer] searches for hidden treasure in the realm of art. She sings with her voice, her body, her eyes, and she captivates with her charm” (
Los Angeles Times
, Dec. 19, 1924).
Ted Schillinger---USA---2000---56 mins.
In this searing domestic drama about a very unique love triangle, a professor of architecture history divorces her husband after 26 years of marriage. She returns to the house of her father, along with her supportive daughter, to begin life anew. When a handsome young student enters the picture, the bonds between a mother and daughter are stretched beyond the breaking point. Unable to endure the humiliation, the husband sets off a chain of events that leads to heartbreak and destruction. A fascinating tale of love and revenge from Fereydoun Jeyrani, an exciting new voice from the contemporary Iranian cinema. In Farsi with English subtitles. Fereydoun Jeyrani---Iran---2002---96 mins.
Based on a true story, this Fajr Film Festival Audience Award-winner is an action film filled with dark humor. Ghassem (Hamid Farrokhnezhad) is a man at his wit's end and desperate to get his family out of Iran. Together with his pregnant wife, he hijacks a plane, but undercover officers onboard the flight will not let the hijacking go smoothly. In Farsi with English subtitles. Egrahim Hatamikia---Iran---2002---115 mins.
For 20 years, Saeed has been trying to marry the homely pastry chef Niloo, but their rivaling families have used one ploy after another to block the marriage. Just as it appears that both clans have finally softened, fistfights break out at the ceremony, prompting another postponement. Iraj Tahmasb's Iranian farce skewers marriage customs and social conventions in colorful fashion. "Full of humor and hilarity" (
Iranian Film Society
). In Farsi Iraj Tahmasb---Iran---2002---105 mins.
UNDER THE MOONLIGHT
In this provocative film from the new Iranian cinema, seminary student Seyyed Hassan is preparing to rise to the status of cleric when his vestments are stolen by a young thief. Seyyed tracks the boy to a poor and distant suburb where he's treated to an eye-opening view of the gulf between religious teachings and harsh, everyday life. Winner of the Grand Prize for Feature at the 2001 Critics Week at Cannes,
Under the Moonlight
boasts "obvious sincerity and a forthright sense of purpose" (Kevin Thomas,
Los Angeles Times
). In Farsi with English subtitles. Reza Mir-Karimi---Iran---2001---100 mins.
WADI 1981-1991/WADI GRAND CANYON 2001
Three interlocking films depicting a group of Arabs and Israelis who nurture a fragile culture of coexistence over a span of twenty years. The films--
Wadi: 1981, Wadi: 1991,
--are set within Wadi Rushmia, a valley in Haifa. Like
A House in Jerusalem
, these films show a microcosm of relations between Israelis and Palestinians, though here things are somewhat more hopeful. We see the pain of displaced Romanian Jews, and of Palestinians forced to live in shambles. But we also see friendships and even love affairs across the social boundaries, as all these people strive in one way or another to establish roots within a constantly changing landscape. In English, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and other languages with English subtitles.
Amos Gitai---Israel/France---1981-2001---180 mins.
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