Showing posts with label Iran. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iran. Show all posts

27 July 2020

Film review: Queen of the Desert (2015) by Werner Herzog, *****

Synopsys

Gertrude Bell, a daughter of wealthy British parents, has no interest in the social life of the London elite. Balls, receptions and the British aristocracy bring her only boredom. She wants to study, learn and above all see the world.

Aspiring to have at least some kind of activity in her life, Gertrude decides to find freedom and move to be with her uncle, who occupies a high diplomatic position in Tehran. From Iran she moves on to Amman and Damascus, some of the main political centers in the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

So begins her lifelong adventure across the Arab world, a journey marked by danger, a passionate affair with a British officer, Henry Cadogan, and an encounter with the legendary T.E. Lawrence.

With an all-star cast, including Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, Damien Lewis and James Franco, Queen of the Desert is the uplifting, inspiring and extraordinary true story of one woman who, against all odds, changed the course of history.


Review

A gripping historical film on the life of an extraordinary woman who carved the life she wanted out of a hard world made for men.

We learn a lot about life in the latter part of the Turkish occupation of what is now Jordan and Iraq, areas where nomads roamed free without borders and ancient religions perpetuated irreconcilable conflicts.

Never seeking power she ended up making political decisions that are still relevant in the Middle East a century later. It would have been interesting if the movie had shown why she helped certain tribes rise to power through British help and not others. In the end, a successful but unhappy woman who spent most of her life alone.



13 May 2020

Film review: A Separation (2011) by Asghar Farhadi *****

Synopsis

The stand out film of the 2011 Berlin Film Festival and winner of the Golden Bear, A Separation is a suspenseful and intelligent drama detailing the fractures and tensions at the heart of Iranian society.

Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film boasts a range of superb performances from the ensemble cast who collectively received the Silver Bears for both Best Actor and Best Actress at the Berlinale.

The compelling narrative is driven by a taut and finely written script rooted in the particular of Iranian society but which transcends its setting to create a stunning morality play with universal resonance.


When his wife (Leila Hatami) leaves him, Nader (Peyman Moadi) hires a young woman (Sareh Bayat) to take care of his suffering father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi). But he doesn't know his new maid is not only pregnant but also working without her unstable husband's (Shahab Hosseini) permission. Soon, Nader finds himself entangled in a web of lies manipulation and public confrontations. A Separation is the first-ever Iranian film to be awarded the Golden Bear.


Review

A universal story of family power struggle and love, all made more stressful by the strictures of Iranian society and Islamic rules. Never predictable, the plot keeps the viewer glued to the screen. Also an interesting peek into middle-class Iran, a category of professionals and white-collar workers that does not share much with poorer, more traditional and religious strata of society. In the end, one gets to reflect on the vault of truth: is it always a sin to lie?


19 March 2020

Film review: Children of Heaven (1997) by Majid Majidi, ****

Synopsys

The accidental loss of a pair of shoes causes problems for a young Iranian boy in this award-winning family drama from director Majid Majidi. After Ali (Mir Farrokh Hashemian) fetches his little sister Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi)'s pink shoes from the cobblers, they are accidentally picked up by a garbageman.

With his family in financial troubles, Ali decides not to tell his parents about the loss. Instead, he agrees to share his shoes with Zahra.

The plan is that she will wear them to school in the morning and return them to Ali at midday, so he can attend afternoon classes. However, the arrangement soon brings further hardships and it's not long before Ali is forced to consider an alternative solution.

In 1998, it was the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film by the Academy.


Review

A lot of suspense in this movie with two children as protagonists of a story that takes us into the life of poor Iranians scraping a living at the margins of society. I see it as a celebration of family love as much as a not-so-indirect denunciation of social inequality in Iran. The two young actors are really talented! Very illuminating to look at the world, or at least at Iran, with the eyes of children who can find happy moments in adversity and overcome the odds.


09 September 2012

Book review: The Dark Tourist (2010), by Dom Joly, ***

Sinister looking WW I artillery on Monte Grappa
Synopsis

'Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme'

Ever since he can remember, Dom Joly has been fascinated by travel to odd places. In part this stems from a childhood spent in war-torn Lebanon, where instead of swapping marbles in the schoolyard, he had a shrapnel collection -- the schoolboy currency of Beirut. Dom's upbringing was interspersed with terrifying days and nights spent hunkered in the family basement under Syrian rocket attack or coming across a pile of severed heads from a sectarian execution in the pine forests near his home.

These early experiences left Dom with a profound loathing for the sanitized experiences of the modern day travel industry and a taste for the darkest of places. The more insalubrious the place, the more interesting is the journey and so we follow Dom as he skis in Iran on segregated slopes, picnics in the Syrian Desert with a trigger-happy government minder and fires rocket propelled grenades at live cows in Cambodia (he missed on purpose, he just couldn't do it).


20 April 2012

Film Review: Space Tourists (2009), by Christian Frei, ***

Synopsis
Frei's film takes a humorous and laconic view of the way billionaires depart our planet earth to travel into outer space for fun. Space Tourists succeeds in surprising its audience with images and situations that have very little to do with the futuristic fantasy of space-tourism. The Swiss filmmaker sets up encounters with the least likely people imaginable: places even stranger and more unknown than outer space itself. The film investigates the emotional oscillations of an expensive enterprise and questions the meaning and boundaries of the human spirit and our hunger for adventure and discovery.

Anousheh Ansari is a billionaire who allegedly spent some twenty million dollars (expensive but, as she puts it, how do you put a price on a dream?) for a 10 day flight to the International Space Station. She explains in her own words why she did this and what her Spiritual experience was. An interesting personality, an Iranian who left her country after the revolution and became American but never forgot her cultural roots. She specifically greeted the Iranian people from space, though she was not allowed to do so in Farsi. She also wore the Iranian flag, but significantly without the Islamic writings in the white part.

Review
This film is another Frei foray into the lives and vicissitudes of the most unusual of people. Ansari is a genuine enthusiast of space, her youthful and genuine passion transpires at all times in the film. She has a child-like naivete for looking at the earth from above, but at the same time a high degree of maturity when she speaks of her travel as a symbol for women's rights, especially in the region of the world where she comes from, where women often do not receive the same opportunities that men do. A spoiled girl's whim? Perhaps, but a great adventure nonetheless. And I can say I would have done what she has done if I had had the money! Go for it Anousheh and thanks Christian Frei for bringing her to us.

Buy your DVD here:



If you live in the US you can get your instant video here






28 January 2012

Book review/Recensione: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, *****

Recensione in italiano di seguito!

Synopsis

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.


26 April 2010

Film review: The Factory of Martyrs, by Camilla Cuomo & Annalisa Vozza, ****

Synopsis
The face of charismatic leader Khomeini and his successors, portraits of national martyrs, animal figures symbolizing good and evil: these huge paintings, commissioned and sponsored by the government, cover the walls of entire buildings in Iran. They are part of the ongoing Islamic propaganda campaign begun at the time of the Revolution in 1979, in spite of the fact that Islam is an iconoclastic religion. The murals proliferated after the war against Iraq, which broke out a year after the birth of the Islamic Republic, cramming the streets amongst advertising billboards for household appliances and mobile phones, and they have become true “epics” of common men who – through the sacrifice and martyrdom held dear by the Shiite religious tradition – want to be fully acknowledged as heroes by the collectivity. These works stand out today in the urban landscape, amalgamating politics, war and religion into a single image. In recent years new imagery has begun to appear, abstract and mystic paintings or a kind of French-style trompe-l’oeil, evidence of the will to give the country a new, modern and more peaceful face, and a reflection of the changes, fears and contradictions of a vibrant Islamic society, brought under the spotlight of international attention.

You can read more about Annalisa Vozza.


A journey through today's Iran, by means of the huge paintings commissioned by the government, which tell about the myths and values of an evolving Islamic society. A full-length documentary, coproduced by Fabrica and RSI, Swiss Television, broadcast on RSI on December 2008 and presented in several international film festivals, including Taormina Film Fest, 2009 and Faito DOC Festival. V.O. Farsi, S.T. English. Format 16:9

You can watch a trailer here and another one here.

In partnership with: RSI, Radio della Svizzera Italiana whom you can contact to buy the movie.  

Tel: +41 91 803 5482 | Fax: +41 91 803 5725 | E-mail: salesoffice@rsi.ch

I am grateful to Faito DOC Festival for showing this film to me.

27 November 2009

Film review: Carnet d’un combattant kurde, by Stefano Savona, ****

Synopsis
Akif left Germany to join up with the PPK guerrilla fighters. His diary records the doubts, dreams and political discussions that the fighters share as they march through the mountains, and in the meetings where the women criticise male prejudices.

You can watch a trailer of the movie here.


Review
Stefano Savona proposes a unique opportunity to look at the Kurdish fighter groups from inside. We see how they train, eat, sleep, study and organize their society on the run. While one may feel some sympathy for young idealists trying to gain a homeland for their nation, I was rather appalled at how the commanders both indoctrinate these fighthers and send them to a hopeless death against the Turkish army.

Buy it on Amazon.fr, or Amazon.co.uk in both English and French.






La versione italiana è disponibile qui.

18 September 2009

Recensione: Taqiyya, Alla Scoperta dell'Iran, di Alessandro Pellegatta, ****

Sinossi
Nella tradizione islamica taqiyya significa "paura, stare in guardia, circospezione, ambiguità o dissimulazione" e ha indicato storicamente la possibilità per gli sciiti di rinnegare esteriormente la fede per sfuggire alla persecuzione sunnita. E da qui che parte questo viaggio in Iran, un Paese sospeso tra passato e presente, crocevia di culture e luogo d'origine di imperi millenari, ritenuto un Paese poco sicuro e troppo integralista.

24 November 2006

Film review: Nose, Iranian Style (2006), by Mehrdad Oskouei, ***

Sinossi
A documentary about why so many people decide to have a nose job in Iran. Most are women, and a beautiful nose is one of the few parts of their body that can be seen in public, hence the necessity to do the most out of it. You can read a description here on IMDb.

Review
Interesting series of interviews. The director asked lots of people, men and women, young and not so young, why they wanted a new nose and what it did for them. What emerges is the portrait of many people very insecure about themselves. Of course nose jobs are done the world over for this same reason, but the numbers in Iran seem to be very high. Quite a few very good looking girls who decide to have the operation, in my opionion, do so under social pressure (many say it will make it easier to find a husband) but would not really need it at all.



Here on Youtube you can see the film with English subtitles. Unfortuntely I can not find a place to buy the DVD online.

Part 1 and part 2 (without subtitles)

25 December 2003

Iran: La fortezza di Bam tra il ricordo e la speranza

Dicembre 2003: sono in Giordania per un breve viaggio natalizio quando una guida mi riferisce le prime incerte notizie: “Terremoto in Iran, migliaia di morti, è crollata una fortezza.” Chiedo dettagli, quale fortezza? “Non so, non ho capito il nome, una fortezza con una doppia cinta di mura.” Non ce ne sono molte, in Iran... La conferma arriva inesorabile con il notiziario serale della BBC sulla radiolina ad onde corte: il sisma ha obliterato Bam dalla carta geografica...

14 September 2003

Bibliography: Books on Iran

Just a small selections of books I found interesting, your suggestions are welcome.

I am reviewing these books one at the time...click on the links to read my reviews.


Guidebooks/Maps

Baker, Patricia: "Iran" (Bucks, England: Bradt Guides, 2001, and subsequent editions). Recensione della traduzione italiana su questo blog. Attenzione a comprare l'edizione più aggiornata.


Travelogues

Brandi, Cesare : “Persia Mirabile”, racconti di viaggi nella regione.

Hastam, Mostafer: “Viaggio in Iran”, racconto di viaggio, superficiale, scritto male e poco informativo: NON consiglio di leggerlo.

Pellegatta, Alessandro: “Taqiyya: Alla Scoperta dell'Iran”(Milano, FBE: 2009). Racconto di un viaggio nel 2009, con utili appendici.

Stark, Freya : “Le Valli degli Assassini”, racconto della grande viaggiatrice delgli anni trenta.

Wearing, Alison: "Honeymoon in Purdah", (London: Pan macmillan, 2000). An odd and funny travelogue of an odd couple in Iran.


History and Culture

Ghirsham, Roman: “Arte Persiana” in due volumi, bellissimo ma difficile da trovare.

Kapuscinski, Riszard : “The Shah of Shahs”a great journalist tells the story of the fall of the Shah in 1979. Ho anche recensito la traduzione in italiano.

Wiesehofer, Joseph : “La Persia Antica”, classico di storia, un po’ pesantino da leggere.


From inside the country

Howard, Jane : “Inside Iran: Women’s Lives” the story of a British woman who lived in Iran in the late 1990s.

Mahmoody, Betty: “Not Without My Daughter”,  the story of an American woman married to an Iranian doctor in the U.S. Everything is fine until they travel to Iran with their daughter to visit his family.

Pizzuti, Nadia : “Mille e un giorni con gli Ayatollah”, resoconto della triennale permanenza (1997-2000) della prima giornalista occidentale in Iran dopo la Rivoluzione. Ben scritto, informativo e molto lucido.

Satrapi, Marjane: "Persepolis" (London: Jonathan Cape, 2003).

13 September 2003

Book Review: Not Without My Daughter, by Betty Mahmoody, *****

Synopsis
'You are here for the rest of your life. Do you understand? You are not leaving Iran. You are here until you die.'

Betty Mahmoody and her husband, Dr Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody ('Moody'), came to Iran from the USA to meet Moody's family. With them was their four-year-old daughter, Mahtob. Appalled by the squalor of their living conditions, horrified by what she saw of a country where women are merely chattels and Westerners are despised, Betty soon became desperate to return to the States. But Moody, and his often vicious family, had other plans. Mother and daughter became prisoners of an alien culture, hostages of an increasingly tyrannical and violent man.

10 September 2003

Recensione: Iran, di Patricia Baker, *****

Sinossi
L'Iran è situato tra l'Iraq e l'Afghanistan, in una delle zone del mondo dove gli equilibri politici sono tra i più fragili. Queste stesse antiche terre sono anche comunemente riconosciute come il gioiello dell'Asia Centrale. Le sue città sono costellate da moschee e da santuari impreziositi con mosaici di colore azzurro, eretti in nome di grandi personaggi della storia locale. La sua gente è generosa e amabile e i suoi paesaggi molteplici, dagli impianti sciistici di Teheran alle sabbie del Mar Caspio. Abbandonate i vostri pregiudizi prima di partire, prendete una copia di questa approfondita guida, alla sua terza edizione, e immergetevi in questi luoghi: tornerete arricchiti dal vostro viaggio.

Recensione
Questa è un'ottima guida per informazioni culturali e storiche sul paese, ed anche per tanti suggerimenti di esperienze da provare ...fuori del sentiero più battuto. Il libro è ben rilegato e di dimensioni pratiche per stare in tasca. Questa guida, come tutte le guide Bradt, NON è concepita per fornire dettagli su alberghi, ristoranti, trasporti. Per questo scopo è molto meglio la Lonely Planet, ed io consiglierei di comprare entrambe le guide e portarle in viaggio con sé. Le due opere sono assolutamente complementari fra di loro.

Book Review: Iran, by Patricia Baker, *****

Synopsis
Bradt’s Iran has both a cultural and historical focus. It covers world-famous sites such as Persepolis, but it also delves into the lesser-known monuments and little-recognized figures of this vast and ancient land. Additionally, the guide covers clothing conundrums (women – buy a $20 manteau as soon as you arrive; men’s shirts should not be garish) and taboos, including the intricacies of when and how to remove your shoes. It suggests what to eat and where to shop, including more serene alternatives to the country’s boisterous bazaars. And, it advises, should you accidentally run up against the authorities, “Women, forget all feminist scruples and cry.”

02 September 2003

Book Review: Inside Iran: Womens' Lives, by Jane Howard, ***

Synopsis
TV crews and foreign correspondents come and go, but former BBC correspondent Jane Howard made her home in Iran for five years (1996-2000), raising her two young children there. Her experience took her beyond the headlines and horror stories and into the lives of everyday Iranian women. Her report takes readers from dinner in a presidential palace to tea in a nomad's tent.

01 September 2003

26° g - 1 SET: Tehran, partenza per l'Italia e fine del viaggio

Ultimo giorno a Tehran, vado al grande bazar, vorrei comprare qualche tappeto. Mi porta M. un iraniano che ho conosciuto tramite amici comuni e che ora vive in Italia ma ora è qui in vacanza. Mi presenta alcuni negozianti suoi amici e dopo un po' di inevitabile negoziato con uno di loro decido per tre tappeti, ma non posso pagare in contanti, e qui in Iran non funzionano le carte di credito. Allora ci mettiamo d'accordo sul prezzo, dico che gli manderò i soldi dall'Italia e lui mi spedirà i tappeti.

31 August 2003

25° g - 31 AGO: Tehran, American Embassy

Oggi vado a spasso per Tehran. Passeggio davanti all'ambasciata americana, o ex ambasciata, quella occupata da sedicenti studenti iraniani nel 1979 dentro la quale furono tenuti in ostaggio 52 americani per 444 giorni. Successivamente, con la rottura delle relazioni diplomatiche tra i due paesi, l'ambasciata è stata usata come scuola dei Pasdaran, la milizia politica del regime.

30 August 2003

24° g - 30 AGO: Tehran, volo in parapendio

Oggi ho avuto un'esperienza interessantissima, sia in sé sia per il contatto umano che mi ha permesso di sviluppare con colleghi piloti.

Qualche mese fa avevo visto a Bruxelles un documentario sulle donne che in Iran vogliono imparare a volare in parapendio. Mi ero riproposto di cercare il loro club, e dopo aver chiesto un po' in giro sono riuscito a trovarlo, alla periferia nord di Tehran, su di una collina sovrastante la città, proprio alle pendici dei monti alle spalle della grande megalopoli.

Lì sono stato accolto da Hamid, che parla pochissimo inglese, un simpatico istruttore dell’aeroclub Aseman Abi (Cielo Azzurro), all’estremo nord della città. la sua email è sarajan_h@hotmail.com, cell 0911-201-0789, anche questa è un’occasione per conoscere iraniani (piloti ...e pilotesse in questo caso, interessante vederle volare tutte coperte dai veli) e passare qualche piacevolissima ora.

29 August 2003

23° g - 29 AGO: Tehran, Darakeh

Se siete a Tehran il Venerdì è interessante andare a passeggiare a Darakeh, al nord della città, dove ci si può mischiare a migliaia di giovani iraniani, bere thè, fumare qalyan, far due chiacchiere con chi capita. Vado da solo ma fraternizzo subito con un sacco di gente, tante foto e risate. In qualche caso anche con ragazze anche se la maggior parte dei gruppetti di ragazzi che fanno casino lunto il fiumiciattolo sono divisi per genere, maschi e femmine in gruppi separati.

Giornata stupenda di sole, mette di buon umore vedere tanta gente divertirsi con rilassatezza. Un ragazzo mi racconta che ogni tanti i Basij vengono a ...rompere anche qui, ma in questo periodo, con il “liberale” Khatami alla presidenza, c’è più tolleranza.