IS BLACK, THE (KHANEH SIAH AST)
(director/writer: Forough Farrokhzad; cinematographer: Soleiman Minasian;
Golestan; Runtime: 15; MPAA Rating: NR;
Golestan; Facets Video; 1963-Iran-in Persian
with English subtitles)
"This powerful humanistic film is credited by some of the great modern Iranian filmmakers (Mohsen Makhmalbaf & Abbas Kiarostami) as marking the beginning of the Iranian New Wave."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The director of this haunting 22-minute (Facets has seven minutes cut from the original) black-and-white documentary about a leper colony in northern Iran, near Tabriz, is the renown Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad, a rare woman in Iran's literary circles and to boot a modernist concerned with women's affairs. The poetess died in 1967, at age 32, in a car accident. This powerful humanistic film is credited by some of the great modern Iranian filmmakers (Mohsen Makhmalbaf & Abbas Kiarostami) as marking the beginning of the Iranian New Wave and a film that greatly influenced them. Film critics have fairly compared the film to the superb Tod Browning's 1932 Freaks for the way both films present a sympathetic look at society rejects, those society looks down upon because of their deformities and ugliness. But Browning's film, as great as it was, was not grounded in the lyrical far-reaching voice of Farrokhzad, who reminds us "There is no shortage of ugliness in the world. If man closed his eyes to it, there would be even more."
In the first part a male
voice (thought to be the film's producer Ebrahim Golestan) tells us in a clinical
dispassionate way a bunch of facts about leprosy and
informs us that leprosy is treatable, especially if
caught in time. We view those with the disease walking
around the grounds, treated by the medical staff, praying in their
prayer halls, women attending a wedding ceremony
applying makeup on their grotesque faces and a glimpse
at their daily life routines
in their attempt to maintain a normal life in the
colony. We observe how strongly the lepers
trust in God and pray so they can be cured, but the
male voice-over cautions us that it is only through
proper medical attention for a possible cure. In the next part Farrokhzad
vibrantly recites a poem in a voice-over that movingly
describes the despair of their situation, as the poet
connects the lepers with the suffering of all
The title is derived when we watch a classroom in action and the teacher asks a male student to write a sentence with the word house.
of the last scenes, a one-legged man hops on crutches
between two rows of trees and in the background Farrokhzad
recites the following unforgettable poem:
for the day is fading,
REVIEWED ON 2/15/2012 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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