In the summer of 1985, Vaclav Havel decided to go on a roadtrip - to visit friends, and also to test the extent of his civil liberties as a citizen of communist Czechoslovakia. The results were Kafkaesque in their absurdity: over the course of nine days, Havel was arrested twice, charged with "incitement to disturb the peace," and held in jail for a total of four days. All of his hosts had their homes searched, and several of them were detained as well.
Introduced by director Pourya Azarbayjani
With Feast of Sorrow, this year’s ILEX Award recipient Pourya Azarbayjani (Unfinished Stories) weaves together four intersecting stories. From a young man who fakes his death in a scheme to raise money, to a woman pretending to be someone she is not, to a middle-aged husband enraged by his wife Instagram posts, to a young couple expecting a child who are befriended by their Chinese neighbors, these tales illustrate how the internet and social media have transformed Iranian society. - Freer and Sackler Galleries
Director, producer, and writer Pourya Azarbayjani was born in Tehran and graduated in theatre direction from Soureh College. He began his career as an assistant director on vearious features. Following several short films, he made his feature directorial debut in 2007 with Unfinished Stories. His Tajrish … An Unfinished Story premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2014. He won the Special Jury Prize for Arvand at the 2016 Fajr International Film Festival.
A hilarious, if somewhat fictionalized, portrait based on the political career of a recent Iranian official. Hamed Behdad plays a brash fellow from the provinces who barges his way into politics, despite his difficulty pronouncing long words in front of Parliament. He is mistakenly identified as a hero when a bomb explodes at an officially sanctioned rock concert, and becomes a popular choice for candidate. His campaign slogan, “When there is a culture problem, turn it into a security problem,” soon gets out of control and leads to misunderstandings on all sides. As he gains ground with the electorate, his malapropisms and off-the-wall reasoning serve as comedy while the film does show how public opinion can turn.
"Like Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy, he's a fabulist whose attempts to act out his fantasies become uneasily successful." - The Sydney Morning Herald
Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad), a professor who is now a goldfish farmer in a village, quietly tends to his own affairs alongside his school principal wife. After his river-sourced water supply is cut off, Reza's goldfish begin dying. His attempt to reopen his sluice is met with a violent attack by a mysterious man from a shadowy organization known as simply "the company." Reza refuses to bribe his way out of mounting legal problems, but he quickly discovers the steep price to be paid for holding on to principles in a system where greed trumps morality. Winner of the Un Certain Regard Prize at Cannes in 2017.
"Although the film will be banned in its home nation, fests and niche arthouse distributors in most territories will welcome this brave, underground production for the way it manages to resonate on both specific and universal levels." - Variety
"A saturnine morality tale that unfolds in shades of rainy gray beneath leaden, overcast skies, gritting up the nation's cinematic tradition of humanist drama to an almost unrecognizable degree." - The Playlist
"Mohammad Rasoulof’s angry damnation of political corruption is posed to be one of the juggernauts when it comes to foreign picture selections come awards time. On a side-note, I will say that Reza Akhlaghirad has one of the greatest ‘pissed-off’ faces in cinema, a cold gaze that would intimidate any person." - Film Inquiry
Banned from making films, Hasan is doubly frustrated that his muse (Leila Hatami) is working with other directors. There are disagreements with his wife, and his aged mother is getting more and more detached from reality. But most galling of all, a serial killer is going about beheading Iran's finest filmmakers, yet Hasan remains unscathed. Why, when he is one of the greatest, is he being completely ignored? Mani Haghighi (A Dragon Arrives!) directs this lunatic comedy full of hijinks not seen before in Iranian cinema.
Artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat (Women Without Men) draws from personal experiences with her latest movie, a film-within-a-film. An Iranian woman filmmaker – living in exile while directing a lavish biopic about the legendary Egyptian superstar, Oum Kulthum – deals with a temperamental lead actress and hostility from men on the set. Meanwhile, she is distracted by calls home to Iran about a family crisis. The film addresses the all-too-familiar challenges women artists face in a creative space where male colleagues question their capabilities.
“Neshat juxtaposes the life of the singer, and Oum Kulthum’s real life personal choice to remain single and childless to honor her career, with a film where she explores the stumbling blocks that a woman filmmaker in the Arab world faces, when, as an outsider herself she decides to make a film about an iconic figure. Sound familiar? Yes, the concept is brilliant and the resulting film poses a series of questions, questions that if we sat down to truly ponder, might offer us the answers to a better world.” – Huffington Post
Shirin Neshat said that the son of Abbas Kiarostami was the first person who suggested she make a film on the singer. But a biopic was not her idea, so she decided to make a “portrait of an artist trying to make a portrait of an artist. And, more importantly, a portrait of a Middle Eastern female artist looking at an iconic Middle Eastern female artist. And, of course, one is a minuscule artist, while the other is the grandest of the century. I think that, like Women Without Men, where we were trying to pursue the plight of each one of the four characters, yet also treat the country of Iran as almost a fifth female character; what I’m trying to say is that, with this film, we’re trying to tell Oum Kulthum’s story, but we’re also trying to speak about more than that. We’re trying to look at Egypt’s modern history, trying to look at a contemporary woman’s challenges, women who didn’t have the freedom Oum Kulthum had to devote everything to her career.”
“Nothing can prevent me from making films since when being pushed to the ultimate corners I connect with my inner-self and, in such private spaces, despite all limitations, the necessity to create becomes even more of an urge. Cinema as an art becomes my main preoccupation. That is the reason why I have to continue making films under any circumstances to pay my respect and feel alive.” – Jafar Panahi
Filmmaker Jafar Panahi (This Is Not A Film; White Balloon) is officially forbidden from making films for 20 years (for allegedly making propaganda against his country’s regime), but 3 Faces is the latest exceptional work – his fourth – that he has made in the face of that ban. Panahi and actress Behnaz Jafari travel to rural northwest Iran after receiving a plea for help from a girl whose family forbids her from studying acting in Tehran. Amusing encounters abound, but they soon discover that the local hospitality is rivaled by the desire to protect age-old traditions.
The Cannes International Film Festival says, “Panahi understands that it is impossible for everyone to arrive at the same definition of truth, and his message of kindness for people with different perspectives is a timely lesson that bears repetition.”
“This is Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker with more cause than most to feel victimized, turning a deeply respectful, artful and compassionate eye outward, to the struggles of others, and finding such empathy there that the film amounts to a heartfelt statement of solidarity. He is perhaps becoming resigned to his bondage, even as he’s becoming more adept at working around it, but with 3 Faces, the caged Panahi is determined to sing someone else’s song, and in times like these, such generosity of spirit is its own quietly fierce act of cinematic defiance.” – Variety
“Charming Iranian cinema at its purest. Defiantly modern in its liberating message.” – The Hollywood Reporter
“Full of intelligence and humility and a real respect for women and for female actors. Gentle, elusive, and redolent of this director’s mysterious Iranian zen.” – The Guardian
“A beautiful expression of artistic solidarity.” – Slant Magazine
“An artful, surprising and thrillingly intelligent story about a few women trying to make a difference.” – Los Angeles Times
“A gently provocative meditation on the role of creative souls in modern-day Iran.” – Time Out
“A sly fictional commentary on life in Iran, hope, the country’s cinema legacy, and the continuity of history, disguised with folksy infusions of humor as a shaggy dog story.” – RogerEbert.com
“A hymn to the irrepressibility of screen storytelling.” – Little White Lies
Introduced by curatorial assistants Laura Minton (prints & drawings) and Marijana Rayl (photography) in conjunction with the exhibition Always Greener: Seeing and Seeking Suburbia
John Waters’s Serial Mom is an edgy comedic satire of America’s obsession with economic prosperity following World War II. Kathleen Turner plays the quintessential suburban wife and mother who is quite tightly wound. As the body count begins to rise in the neighborhood, a police investigation get closer to the truth—threatening the family’s perfect world. Ricki Lake, Sam Waterston, and plenty of star cameo appearances complete the eclectic cast.
Set during Italy’s struggle for unification, the operatic melodrama Senso stars Alida Valli (The Third Man) as a 19th-century Venetian noblewoman torn between loyalty to her country and a dissolute Austrian officer (Farley Granger).
Luchino Visconti luxuriates in the aristocratic period trappings—a Technicolor feast of sumptuous gold, lavender, scarlet, and emerald jewel tones—while casting a jaundiced eye on Italian history, class, and nationalism. He originally wanted Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando for the lead roles, but the studios refused. Playwright Tennessee Williams worked on translating the English dialogue.
“Senso could be described as an agonized love story that unfolds against a vast historical backdrop. But Visconti’s great achievement here is in giving equal importance to both the romance and the history—in fact, in linking the actions and fates of his characters to forces larger than themselves. Just as Roberto Rossellini, another Neorealist pioneer, concluded his career with a series of pedagogical films that probed the lives and ideas of great leaders and thinkers, Visconti wrestled increasingly with the responsibilities and implications of depicting history.” —Los Angeles Times
“The theatrical and ornate mise-en-scène of the scene full of splendor, spectacle, and illusions of reality in the forms of mirrors offers the perfect backdrop for a film that comments on the deception of appearances and the nature of historical truth.” —The Artifice of Cinema: Visconti’s Senso
Winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) recounts the political upheaval and generational sea change in reunification-era Italy. Burt Lancaster is the patriarch of a ruling-class Bourbon family in the last gasps of its dominance as Garibaldi and his redshirts upend social order and a new spirit ascends—embodied by beautiful people Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale.
“I have a very high opinion of ‘decadence,’ just as, for example, Thomas Mann did. Mann was a decadent of German culture, I of Italian formation. What has always interested me is the analysis of a sick society.” —Luchino Visconti