Bearing Witness: The Films of Bahman Ghobadi April 14 & 15
In person: Bahman Ghobadi and his co-writer, journalist Roxana Saberi, at the Walter Reade Theater for a mid-career retrospective of Ghobadi's work.
With his very first film, the remarkable A Time for Drunken Horses, Bahman Ghobadi established himself as not only one of the most talented filmmakers in his generation but also one of the most courageous. In works that consistently defy expectations, his characters seem almost natural rebels against authority, demanding their own space in a society that seeks to overwhelm them.
Single Screening Tickets $12 General Public
$8 Senior/Student $7 Member
Tickets are also on sale at the Walter Reade Theater's box office and at CenterCharge, 212 721 6500.
Bahman Ghobadi, 2006, Iraq/Iran/Austria/France; 107m
In this fantastical, musical road movie, a famous Kurdish musician and his ten mustachioed sons pile into a minibus for a concert in Iraq. Against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and flatlands, Ghobadi blends colorful traditions and contemporary political realities, working with the fanciful sensibility of folk tales and the liberating power of music. The boisterous band’s often comical journey includes an unforgettable stop at a village boasting 1,334 female singers, mesmerizing in full regalia. What might have been a conventional tale of crossing borders slowly turns into a heady and haunting pilgrimage, marked by surreal visions.
Marooned in Iraq (Songs of My Motherland) Bahman Ghobadi, 2002, Iran; 108m
Ghobadi’s second feature film brings a remarkable sense of buoyancy and even hilarity to its painful setting after the first Gulf War—when Saddam Hussein was brutally suppressing Kurds across Iraq. When Mirza, the patriarch of a musical family, hears that his ex-wife may be in trouble, he rounds up his two sons and sets out on an ambitious journey from Iran into Iraqi Kurdistan to find her. Encountering both humorous diversions and real devastation, the bickering, lively family sustains itself through the energy and passion of its music and the well-tested endurance of the Kurdish people.
No One Knows About Persian Cats Bahman Ghobadi, 2009, Iran; 106m
Bahman Ghobadi and Roxana Saberi in person!
A couple’s search for a friend with the documents that will allow them to leave Iran leads to an eye-opening tour of the underground music scene in Tehran. In the most powerful cinematic foreshadowing of the now-emergent protest movements, Ghobadi finds a cheering, vigorous sense of cultural solidarity against the draconian bans on performance. And what performances! Tehran’s music contains multitudes—catchy indie rock, classical Persian duets, thrash metal, worldly wise ballads, boisterous hip-hop, and more—which are filmed everywhere from a tiny clubs to a barn. Shooting in only 17 days and getting arrested along the way, Ghobadi makes a film that captures the spirit of these young musicians without shying away from the reality of repression.
A Time for Drunken Horses Bahman Ghobadi, 2000, Iran; 80m
After almost a decade of shooting short documentaries and a stint as an assistant director, Ghobadi finally made his powerful debut—and won the Camera d’Or at Cannes. A grimly realistic story inspired by events captured in one of his earlier documentaries, the film follows the travails of five Kurdish siblings after their father’s death. With their disabled brother in desperate need of an operation, the children take drastic measures – including smuggling and arranged marriage – to raise money and transport him across the border to doctors in Iraq. The snowy, starkly beautiful mountains that the characters traverse visually echo their bleak situation, as Ghobadi’s direction allows us appreciate the stoic determination of his all-too-young subjects.
Turtles Can Fly Bahman Ghobadi, 2004, Iraq/Iran; 95m
Resilient under great hardship, a scrappy 13-year-old in a mountainside Kurdish village installs the satellite dishes that keep the community and its refugees informed in the harsh aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s rule. Flashes of MTV vulgarity collide with Muslim culture, as energetic youths and idle village elders await the American invasion with a mixture of trepidation and optimism. In the first feature film to be shot in post-Saddam Iraq, Ghobadi crafts an ode to his charismatic young actors, whose innocence and humor remains inviolable even as it is toughened by war and poverty. The film captures the volatility of Iraq's Northern border with visceral handheld camerawork and quietly poetic imagery.