Synopsis by Jonathan Crow
Samira Makmalbaf makes her sophomore feature outing with this bold, elliptical look at the plight of marginalized populations in modern Iran. The film opens with a group of Kurdish teachers lugging blackboards on their backs in the rocky hinterland looking for illiterates to educate. The group splits up in a panic when they are suddenly confronted by a helicopter border patrol. Two pedagogues, Reeboir (Bahman Ghobadi) and Said (Said Mohamadi), camouflage their chalkboards with mud and take separate paths. Reeboir runs into a bevy of semi-feral adolescent boys who look haggard beyond their years; they spent their entire lives hauling (smuggled) goods through harrowing mountain passes. Reeboir tries to convince the lads that they should learn to read, but he is firmly rebuffed. Meanwhile, Said stumbles upon a wizened old man with a urinary problem and an attractive widowed daughter. Said eventually marries the woman, using his blackboard as dowry. Makmalbaf manages to imbue the film with a mood of fear and loss, making the characters' indomitable spirit all the more moving. This film was screened in competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
Iran, marriage, reading, smuggling, teacher, widow/widower