Iranian Film Series at Berkeley - Jan. 2003


New Iranian Cinema
  • 7:00 Bemani (To Stay Alive)
  • 9:00 The Exam
  • 15
    New Iranian Cinema
  • 7:00 The Deserted Station
  • 9:00 A House Built on Water
  • 16
    New Iranian Cinema
  • 7:00 Iranian Spread
  • 9:10 Yad-O-Yadegar
  • 17
    New Iranian Cinema
  • 7:00 A House Built on Water
  • 9:10 Bemani (To Stay Alive)
  • 18
    New Iranian Cinema
  • 7:00 Baran
  • 8:55 Iranian Spread
    PFA Theater: 2575 Bancroft Way @ Bowditch, Berkeley/ 510-642-1412

    Pacific Film Archive Presents:


    7:00 Bemani (To Stay Alive)
    Dariush Mehrjui (Iran, 2002)
    Beautifully shot and brutally honest-this is the paradox of Bemani, a
    stunningly tragic portrait of the desperation of isolated young
    women. Three stories set in a town on the Iraqi border build to a
    grim fairy tale. A weaver meets a handsome border guard and weaves
    him a rug; they are seen together, and soon she is no more. A secret
    medical student is found out by her father and imprisoned in his
    basement. Bemani, daughter of a poor tenant, is given to her elderly
    landlord in marriage. She literally can't wait till he dies. The rate
    of attempted suicides among women and girls is stretching the local
    hospital's resources. In this rural life, all that should be
    beautiful is oppressive: the rich colors of yarns are the color of
    blood; masterfully prepared food tastes of a slave's hand; nature's
    dry expanses and familiar brooks mean there is nowhere to hide. A
    goat has a better life than a woman, until both have served their
    purpose.-Judy Bloch
    Bemani is repeated on Friday, January 17.
    * Written by Mehrjui, Vahideh Mohammadifar. Photographed by Bahram
    Badakhshani. With Masoumeh Bakhshi, Neda Aghayi, Shadi Heydari. (95
    mins, In Farsi with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Farabi
    Cinema Foundation)

    9:00 The Exam
    Nasser Refaie (Iran, 2002)
    (Emtehan). The first narrative feature by Nasser Refaie, The Exam
    depicts the anxious present and hopes for the future of hundreds of
    women getting ready to take a college-entry exam. Young and old, rich
    and poor, they wait patiently for the test, pacing around a packed
    courtyard, herded by a loudspeaker's disembodied voice, and killing
    time the way most people in college films do: picking on nerds,
    furtively smoking bootleg cigarettes, and ogling boys. But unlike
    characters in such genre films, they also deal with indignant
    husbands or fathers-even mothers-who consider female schooling either
    unnecessary or threatening. Masterfully flowing from one group to
    another, Refaie orchestrates the women's comments and complaints to
    expose contemporary Iranian debates on such topics as modernity
    versus tradition, the equality of the sexes, and most of all, the
    idea that education will make a difference in life.-Jason Sanders
    * Written by Refaie. Photographed by Farzad Jodat. With Raya Nassiri,
    Farzin Aghaie, Aghdas Khoshmou, Nahid Refaie. (80 mins, In Farsi with
    English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Farabi Cinema Foundation)

    7:00 The Deserted Station
    Alireza Raisan (Iran, 2002)
    (Istgah-e matrook). Based on an idea by Abbas Kiarostami (the
    director's mentor), The Deserted Station is an off-the-road road
    movie, where an unexpected detour offers a far greater gain than the
    eventual destination. A young urban couple-a well-known photographer
    and a former schoolteacher-are on a pilgrimage for a healthy
    childbirth when their car breaks down, stranding them in an isolated
    village. Most of the able-bodied residents have left to find work
    elsewhere; seemingly the only adult left behind is the village
    mechanic and teacher Feizollah (Rajabi, one of Iran's greatest
    comedians, in a strong role). While Feizollah and the husband attempt
    to fix the car, the wife takes over the village classroom, with
    intoxicating results. She discovers the world she was traveling to
    pray for: a world of children. The serene pacing and epic visions of
    deserted landscapes and abandoned buildings add to the film's eerie,
    almost fable-like aura. The children's vibrant presence within such
    desolation offers the only hope for a better future.-Jason Sanders
    * Written by Kambozia Partovi, based on a story by Abbas Kiarostami.
    Photographed by Mohammad Aladpoush. With Leila Hatami, Nezam
    Manouchehri, Mehran Rajabi, Mahmoud Pak Neeyat. (93 mins, In Farsi
    with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Farabi Cinema Foundation)

    9:00 A House Built on Water
    Bahman Farmanara (Iran, 2002)
    (Khaneie rouj-e ab). "The story of a society in a collective coma" is
    the stated theme of Bahman Farmanara's sophisticated portrait of a
    doctor-and a nation-in crisis. The film won Best Picture at the Fajr
    Film Festival and Best Actor for its star Reza Kianian. "There are
    wounds in life that eat your soul away," quotes Kianian's character,
    a gynecologist. The doctor encounters his society's hidden
    diseases-heroin addiction, prostitution, AIDS, and overpopulation-but
    it is his emotional guilt as a father, son, and lover that truly
    gnaws away at his soul, haunting him with spiritual doubt and dreams
    of fallen angels and destiny's unwoven threads. Farmanara uses the
    patients' ills and the doctor's melancholia to critique a society
    that surrounds and drowns. But he refreshingly moves beyond the
    literal with metaphysical digressions and poetic musings, where
    dreams and references to classical Persian art and poetry offer
    greater solace than any comatose reality.-Jason Sanders
    A House Built on Water is repeated on Friday, January 17.
    * Written by Farmanara. Photographed by Mahmood Kalari. With Reza
    Kianian, Ezat Entezami, Mehdi Safavi, Hedye Tehrani. (107 mins, In
    Farsi with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Farabi Cinema

    7:00 Iranian Spread
    Kianoush Ayyari (Iran, 2002)
    (Sofreh Irani). A counterfeit thousand-toman note turns up in a
    bazaar, and thus begins a journey through every stratum of Iranian
    society as the bill is palmed from one unknowing soul to the next,
    stranger and loved one alike. From a rich man who passes the note off
    on a beggar and gets 950 in change, to a family amusing themselves in
    the woods, to a back-alley abortionist's where life is not so
    amusing, to a desert wedding where the young bride weeps at her fate
    while the elderly groom slips the note to the musicians-so goes la
    ronde. Ironic and telling, Iranian Spread offers a human view of
    economic crisis where dignity itself is a commodity; the duped are
    quick to become dupers. Even more, it is a picture of money-how it
    comes into every minute of every day; how it gives direction and
    addles perception at the same time. And that's a picture of all of
    us.-Judy Bloch
    Iranian Spread is repeated on Saturday, January 18.
    * Written by Ayyari. Photographed by Dariush Ayyari. With Noor-Ali
    Lotfi, Mehrdad Falahatger, Mansoureh Ali-Akbari, Masoumeh Shir-Rafat.
    (110 mins, In Farsi with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From
    Mohammad Atebbai)

    9:10 Yad-O-Yadegar
    Mostafa Razzagh Karimi, Mojalal Varahram (Iran, 2002)
    Iran as few westerners have seen it-multicultural, immense,
    astonishingly diverse, hauntingly beautiful. This ambitious
    documentary is an exercise in poetic cartography that takes in the
    vast sweep of an ancient, tragic land, tracing not just the length
    and breadth of its geography but also the arc of its history as a
    nation-state, from the earliest Persian tribes to the present-day
    theocratic republic and its ongoing, difficult confrontation with
    modernity. The film eschews narrative, opting instead for a
    mesmerizing weave of music, image, and sound. The variety of the
    country's climatic and natural conditions-deserts, forests, coasts,
    and mountains-and the cultures, rites, and religions of its numerous
    ethnic groups are all observed with great attention and fidelity.
    Four years in the making, this is an exquisitely rendered document, a
    testament both to the filmmakers' courage and zeal and to their
    subject's infinite richness.-Vancouver International Film Festival
    The film has raised controversy in its North American screenings over
    its interpretation of contemporary Iran.
    Yad-O-Yadegar is repeated on Sunday, January 19.
    * Photographed by Mahmood Bahadori. (97 mins, In Farsi with English
    subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Mohammad Atebbai)

    7:00 A House Built on Water
    Bahman Farmanara (Iran, 2002)
    Please see Wednesday, January 15.

    9:10 Bemani (To Stay Alive)
    Dariush Mehrjui (Iran, 2002)
    Please see Tuesday, January 14.

    7:00 Baran
    Majid Majidi (Iran, 2001)
    In depicting the lives of Afghan refugees in Iran, Baran "plunges you
    into a reality that is, more often than not, difficult and sad, and
    then, without sentimentalizing it or denying its brutality,
    transforms that reality into a lyrical and celebratory vision. [The
    film's] hero is a young laborer named Latif, who fetches groceries
    and serves tea at a construction site where many of the laborers are
    Afghan émigrés working illegally. After one is injured, his son
    arrives to take his place....Before long...Latif discovers that the
    new boy is actually a girl named Baran, and he commences an awkward,
    earnest courtship....The lovely clarity of this story, which seems to
    have been drawn from the literature of an earlier age, is well served
    by the artful subtlety of the telling. [Director] Majidi prefers
    imagery to exposition, and his shots are as dense with meaning, and
    as readily accessible, as Dutch paintings" (A.O. Scott, New York
    * Written by Majidi. Photographed by Mohammad Davudi. With Hossein
    Abedini, Zahra Bahrami, Mohammad Reza Naji. (94 mins, In Farsi and
    Dari with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Miramax)

    8:55 Iranian Spread
    Kianoush Ayyari (Iran, 2002)
    Please see Thursday, January 16.

    3:00, 5:30 I Am Taraneh, 15
    Rasul Sadr-Ameli (Iran, 2002)
    (Man, Taraneh, panzdah sal daram). Fifteen-year-old Taraneh, whose
    only friend is her imprisoned father, finally succumbs to a marriage
    proposal from Amir, the boy who works at the carpet shop next door.
    But the marriage ends bitterly only four months later, and Taraneh is
    left to face the challenge of an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the
    lack of support from the adults in her life, Taraneh remains doggedly
    true to her own sensibility and navigates her life's many
    difficulties with a maturity that belies her years. The soulful
    Taraneh Alidousti's beautiful performance in the title role makes I
    Am Taraneh, 15-winner of the Jury Prize at the Locarno Film
    Festival-a truly transcendent tale of societal norms overcome by the
    extraordinary power of common sense and heart.-Joanne Parsont
    * Written by Sadr-Ameli, Kambuzia Partovi. Photographed by Bahram
    Badakhshani. With Taraneh Alidousti, Hossein Mahjoub, Mahtab
    Nasirpoor. (110 mins, In Farsi with English subtitles, Color, 35mm,
    From Farabi Cinema Foundation)

    7:40 Yad-O-Yadegar
    Mostafa Razzagh Karimi, Mojalal Varahram (Iran, 2002)
    Please see Thursday, January 16.

    PFA Theater: 2575 Bancroft Way @ Bowditch, Berkeley/ 510-642-1412/


    Laura Deutch
    Outreach Coordinator
    Pacific Film Archive
    2625 Durant Avenue
    Berkeley, CA 94720-2250