Iran, what a place right? If you had the chance to visit the country, you would know that cinema plays a huge role in the lives of not only the youth, but the entire populace. We had the chance to introduce some of the best Iranian films within the last 50 years. From the Dariush Mehrjui’s Fellini inspired “Hamoun”, to Mostafa Kiayee’s socially-charged “Ice age”, you got to see a glimpse of Iran’s creativity on the big screen in the first part of this three-part article.
12. Life and A Day (Abad Va Yek Rooz)
The movie goes through a low-class family which is struggling with poverty, addiction, unemployment and more importantly, family relations. The family is bound together by the young girl of the family, Somayeh, who is about to get married to a rich Afghan. While all members of the family have their worries about the wholeness of the marriage, she is struggling with her madly debilitating troubles including a silly mother who is gravely ill, a drug-abusing brother, an obsessively compulsive sister, a considerably smart teenage brother who is being ruined in the environment of the house, and a cunning oldest brother in need of money.
This 2016 film touches on a lot of Iranian taboos and as Mehran Modiri, the great comedian says it presents a new genre which is called “The Misery”. The movie caught a lot of attention and good critics in Iranian and foreign film festivals. Life and a day is the first movie that young and talented Saeed Rostaee directed. He cleverly engages the audience until the very end. He makes you laugh and cry at the same time and more importantly, he makes the audience think after the movie ends.
13. The Third Day (Rooze Sevom)
War is probably the ugliest thing in the whole universe. Iran has been in the war with Iraq for 8 years. Many families fell apart and many people suffered from the pain of loss; they lost their beloved ones, their houses, and literally everything they owned.
The movie is based on a true story about a brother and sister, named Reza and Samireh, who are struggling with the invasion of Iraqi forces in Khorramshahr. They had to leave their houses and run away for their lives. However, Samireh’s leg was broken and she couldn’t run away so Reza came up with an idea and hid her in the house with some food and water. You get to see how he tried to save her sister in the middle of the war in an area full of Iraqi forces.
14. A Separation
A Separation focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who are going through a separation. Simin wants to immigrate to another country but Nader refuses because of his father who suffers from Alzheimer. However, the conflict arises when Nader hires a caregiver for his father since Simin has moved out.
Festival of Awards
A Separation is the first Iranian movie that won the Oscar and Golden Globe for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. It also received the Golden Bear for Best Film and the Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival which again makes it the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear. The film was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, making it the first non-English film in five years to achieve this. At the end of all the film festivals, the movie won 84 awards and had 45 nominations total.
A Separation is a story of disharmony and misjudgment. It is a story of human feelings and how they are ignored every day by both, our beloved ones and strangers. It is the art of Asghar Farhadi to involve the audience within every sequence and make them judge logically or emotionally. Don’t miss watching this amazing drama movie and the spectacular performances of Peyman Maadi, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini and Leila Hatami.
15. A Dragon Arrives (Ezhdeha Vared Mishavad)
A 2016 surrealist film that takes place in 1965, in the aftermath of the assassination of Iranian Prime Minister of the time, Hassan Ali Mansour. Three individuals, a police inspector, a sound engineer, and a geologist are in charge of investigating the suspicious death of a political exile on the island of Qeshm in the strait of Hormuz. What makes everything more mysterious in the area is that whenever someone is buried in the graveyard they are investigating in, an earthquake occurs and someone disappears.
The mysterious atmosphere of the movie and its documentary style is what makes the movie more engaging. The whole movie is like a true mystery story which can make you feel thrilled. Well-played talented actors and Mani Haghighi’s intelligent directing are one of the main reasons that make the movie worth watching.
16. Children of Heaven
The first Iranian movie that was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film in the 71st Academy Awards in 1999. After a boy loses his sister’s pair of shoes, he goes on a series of adventures in order to find them. However, his efforts were not successful he decides to share his shoes with his sister. Until one day, he tries to win a new nice pair of shoes.
The wonderful, innocent faces of the beautiful Iranian children and their code of honor, even in poverty, provide the basis for a very uplifting tale of children trying to overcome a crisis. The direction, cinematography, and music are all outstanding but it is the children that you will fall in love with. While watching the film, Singaporean filmmaker Jack Neo and his wife were moved to “holding hands and crying after seeing the love shared by the children”. Children of Heaven inspired Neo to explore issues faced by Singaporean youths in his 2002 film “I Not Stupid”. Children of heaven take us into the world of a little boy and his sister, letting us feel the love and the trust that they have in each other.
17. The Tenants (Ejareh Neshinha)
The tenants of a rundown building on the outskirts of Tehran, with no legal heir, face major housing problems to deal with. However, the owner of the building, Abbas, is refusing to maintain the property. What begins as a few leaks and cracks here and there escalates into a matter of life and death as the tenants struggle to deal with setback after setback.
All you get to see in the movie is outstanding performances with an amazing story full of ironies. A dramatic portrayal of domestic chaos. It is solely through its ingenuity that “The Tenants” has been hailed by both critics as well as viewers as one of Iranian cinema’s best movies as a comedy. Featuring an excellent comedy of observation, in many ways “The Tenant” marked the departure of artistic sensibilities for Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui as almost all his previous films, such as Hamoun, which is fully explained in the first part of our articles. The outstanding performances of Ezzatollah Entezami and Akbar Abdi cannot be ignored.
18. Twenty (Bist)
A simple story: the owner of a reception hall named Mr. Soleimani, who is a sour, lonely and unloved middle-aged man, decides to close his business in twenty days by the advice of his psychologist. The movie plainly shows the struggle of the five workers who all have hard life conditions and this job is all they have.
The movie is directed by the young talented director Abdolreza Kahani. He has smartly used some of the greatest Iranian actors and as a result, he received many awards and a lot of good critics from Iranian and foreign film festivals including Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Santa Barbara Film Festival, Damascus Film Festival, and Fajr Film Festival. This movie can show an aspect of the downtown in Tehran and their hard life conditions which are beautifully shown by the great directing, story and the talent of actors such as Parviz Parastoee and Mahtab Keramati, who won the award for the best actress in supporting rule in Fajr Film Festival.
19. Red Hat and Cousin (Kolah Ghermezi Va Pesar Khaleh)
With no doubt, Red Hat is the most popular and favorable puppet character in Iran since the day it was first seen in the movie Red Hat and Cousin. Since then it has been an inseparable part of the Iranians houses for both children and the grown-ups. Literally, everyone is in love with Red Hat and the characters that are in the show. The brilliant Iraj Tahmasb made this movie in 1995 made this comedy-musical, a movie for every generation. The story is about a boy who travels a long way from his village to Tehran to work as a showman in a kid’s show, but finds it harder than he thought. The songs that were used in the movie are still memorable and the characters of Red Hat and Cousin turned their 23rd-year performance.
20. The Fifth Reaction (Vakonesh-e Panjom)
What you get to see in this movie is the law against a lonely woman. Fereshteh, a school teacher, is under a lot of pressure from her father in law, after her husband’s death. She has two little boys which the father in law tries to take the custody unless she marries her brother in law. Fereshteh makes up her mind, and decides to escape abroad with the help of her friends, so she can take care of her sons; however, her father-in-law suspects and in hot pursuit tries to find her.
The Fifth Reaction, released in 2003, reveals how the patriarchal society views women, and their cultural position. It is Tahmineh Milani’s seventh movie regarding women’s social position and rights in a patriarchal society which encourages women to struggle to get their human rights back. The movie reflects the inability of Iranian women to take any action in a patriarchal society. The movie perfectly shows how women are treated in restricted Iranian families. You get to see one of the aspects of deeper Iranian culture. Vakonesh-e Panjom wouldn’t turn to one of the must-watch movies without the brilliance performance of Niki Karimi, Jamshid Hashempour, and Shahab Hosseini.
21. Where is the Friend’s Home (Khaneh Doost Kojast)
The first thing that catches the attention of the audience is the name of the internationally known director, Abbas Kiarostami. He is the winner of the Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival for the movie “Taste of Cherry”, making it the first Iranian movie that won this award for the best movie.
Directed by this one of a kind director, Where’s the Friend’s Home is about a little boy who takes his classmate’s notebook at school mistakenly. Knowing that his friend may be expelled if he does not have a notebook in order to complete his homework, he goes looking for his classmate. Hence this film has been seen as a metaphor for the sense of civic duty, about loyalty and everyday heroics. The traditional beliefs of Iranian rural people are also represented.
You have to watch this movie because it takes you to a child’s compassion to find his friend’s home. Children are used in this movie as a window to the society which gives the movie an emotional directness. It is truly a heart-rendering movie. As it was published in the NY Times: “The film locks onto the boy’s thoughtful, sympathetic gaze and questions the authority figures who can’t meet it.
22. Mother (Madar)
The film is about an old mother who is at a nursing home but she asks her children to take her home to stay her last days of her life in her own house and see her children’s reunion like the times they were kids. Meanwhile, she prepares her children arranging for the ceremonies that need to be done after her death.
The cast is filled with the names of the most famous actors of that decade. Directed by one of the best Iranian directors of all times, Ali Hatami, “Mother” is not only about a mother. It is about a country and every child she has, represents the people. This 1990 caught a lot of attention and turned to one of the top 10 Iranian movies of all times.
Don’t miss the last part of this three-series article. There are still 11 movies left from 33 Must Watch Iranian Movies.