Synopsis by Sarah Sloboda
Philip Glass, the minimalist composer whose works include the soundtrack for the acclaimed art film Koyaanisqatsi, commissioned a set of film projects in 2001, including this one, Passage. In it, female director Shirin Neshat reveals an enigmatic desert land in which funeral customs display and contrast Islamic male and female cultural roles. A young girl plays in the dirt while a mysterious rhythm overtakes a circle of women in the desert, and a group of men travels on foot over all types of terrain to transport the body of the deceased. The distinctive customary apparel of both the men and women stands out against the nature of landscapes and the elemental sand, water, and finally, fire. Neshat was backed up by an Iranian crew to produce this short film, just under 12 minutes long, which provides expansive and vibrant views of Morocco. Glass' music accompanies the wordless piece, enhancing the subtle rhythms and gender-based contrasts of the ritual it portrays. Originally commissioned for a series at Lincoln Center in New York, Passage was purchased for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (also in New York) where it was screened as part of the "Moving Pictures" exhibit in 2002.