ARGO directed by Ben Affleck (USA, 2012)
Ever since Fargo, I take with a pinch of salt any film that opens with the assurance that what we are about to see is “based on a true story”.
Ironically, the Coen brothers’ tale of a hapless husband’s plan to have his own wife kidnapped looks far more plausible that the events of the so-called Canadian Caper in Argo.
The story surrounds the bizarre plan to free six US embassy staff held as hostages in Iran. The CIA’s “best bad idea” is to pass them off as Canadian filmmakers looking for movie locations; a scam which necessitates creating a sham Sci-Fi movie project complete with a bogus PR campaign and a fake film studio.
When you learn that all this really happened – well, most of it – the movie becomes much more intriguing. It backs up the old adage/cliché that the truth is stranger than fiction. Continue reading
CLOSE-UP (نمای نزدیک, Nema-ye Nazdik) directed by Abbas Kiarostami(Iran, 1990)
This movie is a reenactment of a true story in which all the parts are played by the people who were involved in the ‘real life’ events.It tells of a man, Hossein Sabziam, who assumed the identity of popular Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and gained access to a home of the well to do Ahankhahon family on the pretence that he wanted to use the house as the location for his next film.
While it has some of the characteristics of a documentary, the fact that we are not presented with a linear narrative is just one aspect that illustrates that the film should be judged as a work of art rather than as mere reportage.
It begins with a reporter in a taxi on the way to the address where he anticipates a big scoop. In the back of the car are two policemen (“Don’t the police have their own cars?”, asks the cabbie).
The reporter doesn’t know where the house he is looking for is. He asks some passers-by . One old man doesn’t know but offers to sell one of the two live turkeys he is carrying instead. Eventually, they find the address which is in a no through road. “It’s ironic that my big story should be in a dead-end”, comments the journalist.
A bumbling reporter, a bored cab driver and the police as back seat passengers all give the impression that we are about to see a comedy rather than a drama. Yet while there is an element of farce about the plot, any humour is understated. Continue reading
A SEPARATION written and directed by Asghar Farhadi (Iran, 2011)
It may be politically sensitive at the moment for the U.S. to acknowledge anything good coming out of Iran, but if there is better foreign language movie to deny A Separation an Oscar then I really would like to see it.
It is common for successful ‘foreign’ movies to be remade in the cinematic lingua franca of English but one of the strengths of Asghar Farhadi’s film is that, while its themes are universal, it is nevertheless imbedded in Iranian culture.
Can you imagine an American actress phoning a religious help line to find out if it is sin to change the soiled clothes of an old man suffering from Alzheimer’s? Would a Western audience be convinced that swearing upon the holy book would cause such trauma?
Equally, there are not many movies anywhere in the world that would so powerfully raise issues surrounding truth, justice, honour, sin, mercy and guilt.
Nothing in the movie suggests that the Iranian regime is any more repressive than other countries although you can fully understand why an intelligent young woman like Simin would find the theocratic system intolerable. Continue reading
Iran’s alternative to Ken and Barbie : Dara and Sara
The Barbie ban as reported in Time magazine refers to the news that the Iranian ‘morality police’ are engaged in a ‘soft war’ against those Western values they fear will lead to young girls getting ideas above their station in life.
This means that they want to stamp out anything that gives women any notion that they can be anything more than chattels to the men.
Heinous as this is, there is also something ironic about them targeting Barbies since feminists in the so-called ‘free’ west have also cited these dolls for their “destructive cultural and social consequences”. Continue reading
“This is the slaughter known as the first world war” says John Pilger in tones of barely contained rage as we see black and white photographs of victims. This opening sequence sets the tone for an uncompromising documentary about the true horror of war and the lies that are propagated in its name.
The film was first shown on ITV in December 2010 but was banned from being shown in the US by the Lannan Foundation.
The question at the heart of this film is that in times of conflict: What is the role of the media?
Are journalists there to help government public relations officials communicate their ‘facts’ without question or are they there to provide balanced reporting based on known facts.
In modern warfare, the so-called imbedded journalists are employed to give a front line perspective on warfare. In the safety of our living rooms, this has the look of witnessing the action as it is happening; the ultimate reality TV.
However, what these journalists are allowed to report is carefully monitored and controlled by military forces. This, they will argue, is in the name of national security but it also means that there are confrontations and situations that will never be seen. Only scenes that show the ‘good guys’ in a good light and the ‘enemy’ as the personification of evil will be broadcast. Strenuous efforts are made to ensure a block of the kind of unfiltered films that Wikileaks have released. Continue reading