Iranian cinema has produced some of the more intriguing films of the last 20 years or so. Personally I love much of what I’ve seen from Iran. The obvious recommendations would be the films of Abbas Kiarostami, who is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living directors; Mohsen Makhmalbaf is another very important director, as is his daughter Samira. His wife has also directed.
If you can get hold of them, the films that make up Kiarostami’s “Koker trilogy” (Where is the Friend's House
, And Life Goes On
and Through the Olive Trees
) are well worth looking at, but I'm not sure if they’re out on video or anything yet. But you can certainly find his Taste of Cherry
and Close Up
The Taste of Cherry
DVD also contains a documentary called 10 on Ten
which has Kiarostami talking about his ideas on filmmaking and in particular the making of his film Ten
, which gives an interesting insight into his approach.
In a typical blurring of reality and fiction Close Up
features an appearance by, and largely concerns, fellow director Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s A Moment of Innocence
is one of my favourite Iranian films, but I don't think this is available on DVD yet unfortunately. But his Kandahar
, Samira’s The Apple
(which she directed at age 17!), At Five in the Afternoon
, and Marziyeh Meshkini’s The Day I became a Woman
have all been released on DVD.
In addition to those directors above you should also check out the films of Jafar Panahi, especially The Mirror
, The Circle
, Crimson Gold
and The White Balloon
And if they ever become available take a look at Sohrab Shahid Saless’s Still Life
and Dariush Mehrjui's The Cow
BBC2 have been showing a few Iranian films over the past couple of weeks so it’s worth keeping an eye out here, also BBC4 is another place you might find them shown occasionally. Turtles Can Fly
, The Children of Heaven
and The Joy of Madness
(by yet another of the Makhmalbaf family) have all been on TV in recent weeks, and are worth checking the listings for in case of repeats.
I think with Iranian cinema, especially with the likes of Kiarostami, it helps to get a little background info about the film to fully appreciate the complexity of its construction, they are often deceptively simple films to watch, but once you know something about the details of the filming they become a whole new phenomenon which is unique to Iranian cinema, and partly what makes it so special.
Btw, Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small
is available as part of a boxset here: