When did you last watch an Iranian film? Or better yet, where is the last time you saw or learned anything about Iran? Odds are the news is where most Americans encounter any stories about Iran and usually, it’s not good news. Well, filmmaking is quite alive in Iran and the stories they tell are not what’s on the newscaster’s minds. They are mostly about the lives of everyday Iranians who experience the joys and sorrows of working hard and getting to tomorrow. Included in IRAN: Axis of People is a documentary about an Iranian girl who just wants to ride her bike on the city street but is reprimanded again and again for doing so as a girl. Gando is another documentary that relates the story of a girl who went to the river to fetch some water but encountered a crocodile?! This is evidently a regular problem for this village. Then there are several stunning animations about the worlds we humans have created around us. Iran truly is an axis around which stories of everyday people’s lives rotate. Films on this reel include…
ONE NICE DAY – An elementary school teacher is given the opportunity to give away one new bookbag to a student in his class. To decide, everyone writes a name on a piece of paper and tosses it into a bag. The teacher will pull out the winner. Little did he know… the fix was in! 🙂 (2014 / 3 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Sousan Salamat / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
BORDERLESS – Delaram is a teenage girl who was born with Down syndrome. She is very aware of being treated differently by others and feels that there is a border between everyone she encounters. Delaram has come up with a unique coping mechanism to maintain happiness in her life. The imagination can be a powerful tool. (2020 / 13 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Behrad Sahebgharani / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
GANDO – In the Sistan and Baluchistan provinces of Iran running water is scarce. Villagers must go to local ponds and rivers to get what they need on a daily basis. Once you are on the river bank you must be very careful because gando (Iranian crocodiles) live there as well. This documentary tells the story of a nine-year-old girl named Hawa who lost her arm one-day getting water. It’s also a story about, despite the gando being a threat, the villagers respect the gando because they believe they help bring the water. (2020 / 8 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Teymour Ghaderi / documentary / Persian w/English subtitles)
WOODEN SWORD – Two young boys meet on a park bench while waiting for their fathers to return. Little do they know their fathers have not formed a friendship similar to what they just have. Is what they see next might stay with them forever. (2019 / 7 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dirs Behzad Alavi, Sousan Salamat/ live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
THE ROTATION – There is a war between two tribes over claiming the sun in the sky. As a result of that war, the sun is annihilated and the volcano erupts. Those two tribes perish and a new sun is made by lava. Several centuries pass and the new tribes continue to war over their claim to the sun in the sky. The sad cycle continues. (2020 / 7 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Hazhir As’adi / animation / no dialogue)
RAINBOW – A young flower vendor working a street corner comes across something that is not his. The events that follow show his regret and misunderstanding of other people’s intentions. (2020 / 11 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Mohammad Khalili/ live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
A GIRL FROM PARSIAN …is an insightful documentary about a group of young Iranian women who wish to ride their bikes and the resistance they encounter from men of all ages. (2019 / 20 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Parinaz Hashemi Mobarakeh / documentary / Persian w/English subtitles)
THE ELEVENTH STEP – A little lion cub, born in a zoo, lives in a cage that is only ten steps long. On the eleventh step he bangs his head against the bars, but one day the zookeeper leaves the cage door open…. (2020 / 11 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Maryam Kashkoolinia / animation / Persian w/English subtitles)
RAYA – Raya’s family is having a dispute with the landlord and eviction is on the horizon. She and several of her friends also have a problem with a teacher at school and they decide to take matters into their own hands. Raya learns the hard way how not to deal with problems she might have with other people. Thankfully she demonstrates this knowledge shortly after. (2019 / 14 mins / Islamic Republic of Iran / dir Sepideh Berenji / live-action / Persian w/English subtitles)
This compilation of four films has multiple, thought-provoking topics to think about, and hopefully after, talk about. They include the struggles of young, Afghani women being musicians in a time when it looks like the Taliban will be coming back to power. Other films from the Netherlands and Argentina follow families who are dealing with children on gender journeys unfamiliar to them. The last film, 2nd Class, is quite relevant to what is happening here in our own country when it comes to reacting to white supremacists. The reel includes the following films…
SOMETHING ABOUT ALEX – A young teenager develops a close friendship with his older sister’s boyfriend, and must confront the depth of his feelings when the couple announces that they will be moving away. (2017 / 18 mins / Netherlands / dir Reinout Hellenthal / live-action / Dutch w/English subtitles)
ORCHESTRA FROM THE LAND OF SILENCE – You’ll defeat the beast with the power of music. Zohra – the first female orchestra of Afghanistan. Girls are preparing for their journey to play a concert in Europe. We see their everyday reality in contemporary Afghanistan through the eyes of 16-year-old girl Marzia. After arriving in Europe unexpected thing happens and four members of the orchestra decide to run away… (2020 / 30 mins / Afghanistan, Slovakia / dir Lucia Kasova / documentary / English, Persian and Slovak w/English subtitles)
THE NAME OF THE SON (El Nombre del Hijo) Lucho, a 13-year-old trans boy, doesn’t usually share much time with his father. When he goes on vacation with him and his younger sister, the new closeness puts their relationship to the test. (2020 / 13 mins / Argentina / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Spanish w/English subtitles)
2ND CLASS (2ND CLASS – 2021 Special Jury Award Best Short Live-Action Film!) This is a story about an elementary school teacher who is violently attacked one night by a neo-Nazi. After healing enough to return to the classroom she finds out that the man who attacked her is one of her student’s fathers. What does she do? And why? This film demands a conversation after viewing. WARNING: Graphic scene with profanity. Recommended age 13+ (2018 / 13 mins / Sweden / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Swedish w/English subtitles)
Consistently ranked among the greatest films ever made, Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL continues to inspire awe and laughter with every viewing. Rejected by the Confederate army and taken for a coward by his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), young Johnny Gray (Keaton) is given a chance to redeem himself when Yankee spies steal his cherished locomotive (“The General”). Johnny wages a one-man war against hijackers, an errant cannon and the unpredictable hand of fate while roaring along the iron rails.
Demolishing stereotypes without wrecking their cars, the Speed Sisters are the Middle East’s first all-female car racing team. With high-octane talent and the marketing savvy to draw attention to their camera-friendly lineup, this diverse, engaging, real-life group competes throughout the West Bank in Palestine’s makeshift motor sports circuit. They navigate Israeli checkpoints and restrictive societal expectations to evolve into potential role models for a new generation of young Arab women.
ALMOST FRIENDS is a documentary about two Israeli girls—an Arab and a Jew—who live only 40 miles away but in many ways live worlds apart. Participating in an online program that fosters educational exchange and friendship, the two girls correspond with caution and eventually meet face-to-face. The experience is profoundly moving for them, their families, and the audiences who see this touching film. But when conflict spans generations, change is slow and “almost” anything might be a start…
Thanks to the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact, Poltava, Ukraine, in 1941 was still a place where the fruits of civilization—in the case of Wunderkinder, music—flourished. Of course, all that changed when the Nazis invaded, and Marcus O. Rosenmüller’s achievement is to evoke those pre- and post-invasion times through the eyes of three children, all of them gifted musicians.
Pianist Larissa (Imogen Burell) and violinists Abrascha (Elin Kolev) and Hanna (Mathilda Adamik) share a great love of music and a friendship based on the joy they take from constant discovery—all three dream of playing Carnegie Hall one day. When the Nazis invade, the three of them—Larissa and Abrascha are Jewish, Hanna is German—find their friendship torn apart and their worlds collapsing through no fault of their own.
Lovingly directed as a poem to lost innocence, Wunderkinder is not a “children’s film.” It is a film from a child’s perspective that may help some families talk about the loss and destruction of World War II and the horror of the Holocaust.
In this new adaptation, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is seamlessly transported to 1948 Bavaria, post-World War II. Both those familiar with the story and those new to this classic American tale will delight in the characters of Tom and Hacke — two adventurous, fatherless boys who experience the thrill and terror of being on their own in a sometimes dangerous world.
Director David Fine’s documentary takes something many American youths are familiar with (basketball), and moves us on a true-life journey to a land many of us are unfamiliar with (Iraq). The result is extraordinary. “Salaam Dunk” is an insightful look into young Iraqi life as experienced by a current women’s college basketball team. The players are a fascinating and genuinely inspiring bunch, and the squad’s mere existence provides a stirring example of the possibilities for young Iraqis outside the country’s war zones. What they overcome on the court, you have seen in other movies; what they must overcome in their Iraqi society, you have not.
Magic, fantasy and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes in this sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. To complete a magical illuminated manuscript, young Brendan must overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest through an enchanted forest beset by barbarians. Will his determination and artistic vision conquer darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?
Set in scenic but strife-ridden Kashmir, “Tahaan” tells the story of an eight-year-old boy who tries to gain back his beloved pet donkey that has been sold along with his family’s possessions to pay the family debt. He wanders village and countryside, navigates border checkpoints, negotiates with merchants and money lenders on his quest – and is recruited to hurl a grenade into an army compound. Lush cinematography and a recurring chorus of Sufi singers add texture to this tender fable.