Massoud Bakhshi's wonderful nonfiction film, Tehran Has No More Pomegranates!, is having a limited theatrical engagement in Los Angeles, a rare opportunity to see this remarkable, beautifully realized and engaging history of Tehran shot on 35mm. Written, directed and produced by Bakhshi, the film was made over the course of five years. We follow its director and his crew on their ambitious mission to make a film about the unwieldy, chaotic city they call home.
With much humor and sarcasm, they find frustration, at every turn, in getting their film made and they explain to their overseers at the Documentary Film Center why this project cannot, ultimately, be completed. They decide amongst themselves to explore the city's past in order to give the Tehran of the present day better context. What ensues is a comedic narrative about the city's transformation from a small, but sophisticated, village into a place of increasing urban decay, pollution (having just returned from there, I can vouch for the horrific air quality), inadequate housing, stratification of a once-homogeneous society and, of course, the fatal destiny of the city's poetic symbol of the pomegranate fruit. (According to the Koran, they grow in the gardens of paradise and the prophet, Mohammed, is said to have encouraged his followers to eat pomegranates to ward off envy and hatred.)
For 68 minutes, one is flooded with rare and beautiful archival footage from the past 150 years, unconventional photography, mock interviews that are really hilarious, and a wondrous and cacophonous soundtrack, most of it incredibly nostalgic for Tehranis. Variety says that it is "an imaginative and engaging history of Tehran that uses a petulant barbed humor to deliver a steady stream of irony about this drastically transformed society." I think the huge population of Iranian Americans in Los Angeles (both those born there and here) will appreciate and adore this film. You can click here to watch the opening sequence of the film narrated by Nosrat Karimi and featuring music by Mohsen Namjoo. You can also read my in-depth interview with the film's director here.
The four screenings will be on November 5 and 6 (next Wednesday and Thursday) at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. each evening at The Landmark Theater in Westwood Village. Click here for more info or to purchase tickets online.
Another film which I had a chance to view recently, and really liked, is having its North American debut, also in LA, at the AFI International Film Festival this week, playing there on the 1st and 5th of November. The star subject of Gogol Bordello Non-Stop, Eugene Hütz, is very much in the spotlight right now, currently starring in Madonna's new flick, Filth and Wisdom, now playing at New York City's IFC Center. Margarita Jimeno, Non-Stop's director, editor and shooter, gives us an up-close-and-personal experience of the genesis and growth of this now world-famous band of gypsy punks: musicians and performance artists ranging in age from 25 to 50, its members hailing from many diverse places and cultures. Following Hütz over the course of several years starting in 2001, she captures the popular groundswell of the raucous party atmosphere that the band serves up wherever it plays, from its early days in the Russian disco scene of lower Manhattan to the tireless global tours on which it embarks, truly going non-stop, "instigating creative hell and attacking people's passivity," in the words of its dynamic founder. Go to the AFI fest site's film guide for more details on the screenings.