Table of Contents
Tame Gilas/Taste of Cherry 1997
A mysterious man drives around the outskirts of Tehran, picking up people and asking them for a strange request. He encounters a Kurd soldier, an Afghan student of Islamic studies, and an older Turkish guy with a charming mustache. The driver interviews these non-actors about their life and offers them a lot of money to do him a bizarre favor. Kiarostami takes us to witness Tehran’s suburbs and its people through his masterful and naked lens. The engaging clash of different ideologies and points of view compensates for the lack of a classic storyline and makes Taste of Cherry remarkable and one of a kind.
Marge Yazdgerd/Death of Yazdgerd 1982
In Marge Yazdgerd we witness the dramatic final days of Yazdgerd, the last Persian king before the Arab conquest of Iran, living among a poor family in a deserted mill house. The scenic design of a dark and gloomy millhouse looks like a stage play, while controversial character encounters challenge many Iranian Taboos. This symbolic and surreal movie is based on a play also written by Bahram Beyzaei and occurs in a single location. The cast, Susan Taslimi, Mehdi Hashemi, and Yasaman Arami do a fantastic job playing multiple roles, and applying suspense, thrill, and passion to the movie.
Mehman-e Maman/Mum’s Guest 2004
Mehman-e Maman invites us to the house of an underprivileged family to get familiar with Persian hospitality and its complicated ways. Golab Adineh plays the role of a mother of two children with an unemployed carefree husband. When unexpected guests arrive, she tries to arrange a decent meal in front of them. We discover each character and their detailed storyline as the neighbors start helping her as they can. The movie is full of pristine ideas, delicate details, and remarkable pictures. Mum’s Guest is heartwarming and funny while showing the realities of a dignified society stricken with poverty!
Dash Akol 1971
Based on a short story from Sadegh Hedayat, Dash Akol occurs in the older times when “Dash Mashti” and “Luti” which are basically the thugs, and hoodlums are carrying blades and following certain rules. Dash Akol is the toughest thug in town with a golden heart who helps underprivileged people and is the trusted friend of a famous and rich family in Shiraz. When the family’s father is in death bed he gives Dash Akol the responsibility of taking care of his business and family. The story becomes complicated as Dash Akol falls into a Taboo love. On the other side of the story, Akol has to deal with Kaka Rostam, a new thug boss who is now rising in his absence and making problems for the city.
Masoud Kimiai uses traditional Persian music, suitable use of close shots, and the unique values of the thug culture to create an everlasting movie. It also makes references to the great works of the past like Shahnameh, and how Rostam’s brother, Shoghad, betrays him in a despicable way.
Zire Pooste Shahr/Under the Skin of the City 2001
Rakhshan Banietemad takes us to the intertwined downtown alleys in the south of Tehran to witness the misfortune of a family in the struggle. The mother is a strong woman working in a textile factory, Ali, the younger brother is a young political activist, and the older sister Hamideh is a married woman who is being physically abused by her husband. Abbas, the older brother is their main source of income, as he works for a rich family with hidden secrets.
The famous scene in which Abbas is dancing to the sound of a musical monkey doll is a classic for Iranians. One of the saddest scenes in Under the Skin of The City is the one when Golab Adineh (the mother) has to convince her older daughter to leave their house and go back to her abusive husband. This movie is the naked truth of poverty among millions of people in Iran, yet hopes for a better future.
Davandeh/The Runner 1984
Amiru is a lonely boy in a rusty abandoned ship living in the south of Iran. For Amiru, every day is a matter of survival. His innocent eyes manifest pride and courage as he tries different jobs like gathering empty bottles in the sea or selling cold water. He is fascinated by trains, airplanes, and engines and starts collecting airplane magazines even though he can’t read a single word. He visits a particular airplane every day and starts dreaming about becoming a pilot. Amiru spends most of his days running, he races with his friends to catch a train or runs after the customers that didn’t pay. Running becomes a routine in his life, as he slowly learns about life and grows to be a man in the body of a child.
The Runner takes us to see life through the eyes of honorable working children. Its famous scene, the dance around fire and ice, is an unforgettable part of Iranian cinema, and the warm and colorful cinematic frames alongside a touching performance by Majid Niroumand make it an immortal piece of art.
Robbane Ghermez/the Red Ribbon 1999
Let’s introduce our only characters in the Red Ribbon. Davood is a half-mad soldier of the Iran-Iraq war who is now on a mine-clearing frenzy. Jomeh is a mysterious Afghan refugee, living in a Tank graveyard, with an exotic musical instrument and wild philosophical views. Mahboobeh is a stubborn woman in search of her only hope, an inherited family house in the ruins somewhere between Iran and Iraq.
They encounter each other on different occasions. Their differences in ideology and points of view become more complicated to the point that a duel of truthfulness on the minefield between Davood and Jomeh, becomes the most famous scene of the movie. The Red Ribbon is a symbolic clash of three different personas and their take on life, war, and important values.
Yek Habbe Ghand/A Cube of Sugar 2011
Brace yourself for a festival of vivid colors, and illuminative lights in a gorgeous Yazd house full of flower pots and garden squares. A Cube of Sugar is a fast-paced, cheerful movie exhibiting the days prior to an unusual form of wedding.
The groom lives in America and participates in the wedding via video call. Everything is working as planned until a cube of sugar gets mischievous and changes everything. Watching the movie, you can experience a Persian wedding and get familiar with different aspects of Iranian culture. The vibrant costumes, authentic atmosphere, and great selection of actors make this movie memorable.
Mahi va Gorbeh/Fish & Cat 2013
Based on a true story, Fish & Cat shows the events occurring in a college student camp in the North of Iran and the interactions between the students and the owners of a creepy restaurant. The students are gathered for an annual kite festival when the disappearance of one of the girls, Maral, ignites the rumors about a murder happening last year in this camp.
The movie is recorded in one take with no cuts. The camera follows each character to get to the next one, seeing each event from multiple points of view, and rotating in a circle. Mahi va Gorbeh is a unique movie that plays with the concept of time. The atmosphere is grey, the relationships are vague and the ending is refreshingly surprising.
Kolah Ghermezi/The Redhat 1994
Our cute muppet, Kolah Ghermezi is a lonely boy living in a small town. Since Kolah doesn’t have a tv, he spends his days in front of the tv shops listening to Aghaye Mojri who says wonderful kind words and addresses every child promising “you with your beautiful eyes. Yes, you. You can come here, and become my co-host, we will do the show together.” Kolah Ghermezi takes this invitation literally and starts going to Tehran to meet his beloved children’s host. The problem is Aghaye Mojri, in real life, is a grumpy guy with loads of problems. Kolah Ghermezi starts secretly helping him which creates many hilarious moments.
Kolah faces competition in the form of a terrifying electronic dinosaur, meets the love of Mojri’s life, and engraves his memory into every Iranian child’s mind. After its huge success in its initial release in 1994, Kolah Ghermezi became an important part of Iranian culture and has been involved in many successful tv shows and movie series.
Hasan Kachal/Hasan the Bald 1970
It’s fair to say that nowadays notable musical movies are pretty rare in Iranian cinema. Most Persian movies are realistic dramas about poverty, social issues, or war. Let’s introduce a blast from the past. Hasan Kachal takes us to the old Persian stories of genies, Jinn, and Pari (fairies) via traditional music, poetic dialogues, and exotic scenes. It’s based on the folk story of Hasan Kachal, the laziest boy in town who is in love with apples. His mother tricks him with a trail of apples, driving him out to experience life and become a man.
He faces sarcastic vendors, fake Pahlevans (heroes), playful dancers, and mythical dervishes. He falls in love with a girl named Chelgis and has to rescue her from the evil monster with the help of his doppelgänger (jinn). The movie is a joy to watch if you like Persian culture, fantasy, and traditional music, and has some comedic moments as well.
Khabgah-e Dokhtaran/Girl’s Dormitory 2005
Roya and Shiring get accepted into a university and move to a city close to Tehran. The university’s dormitory is under construction and they have to rent the house next to it. The local women tell them about the rumors of a satanic force living in that village that steals brides but the young students don’t believe them. After a couple of nights, the girls start hearing fading screams from an abandoned ruin close to their house at night. The movie becomes thrilling and scary when one of the girls encounters something unusual on her wedding night.
The Iranian horror genre doesn’t have much to offer but Khabgah-e Dokhtaran is a successful movie made with a low budget and no special effects (the formula for good horror movies.) It might look amateurish and simple at first but can make you scream if you watch it till the end.
Darbareye Eli/About Elly 2009
A group of young lawyers are driving towards the north of Iran, and screaming their limited freedom into the reflecting tunnels. We witness happy couples dancing instantaneously, singing beside the fire and the sea, and playing beach volleyball. As personalities and characters engage and clash, the story slowly builds the foundation for excitement and thrill. Unstable and superficial happiness slowly starts to thin out when an accident breaks the normal routine and opens many cans of worms. Farhadi takes us to the life of Iranian youth and shows us the struggles of a traditional society facing the modern secular world and its values. Masterful camera work, natural acting, and the attention to many subtle details make “About Elly” one of the best Iranian movies ever. As it is perfectly quoted in the movie “a bitter ending is preferable to an endless bitterness.”
Marmoolak/the Lizard 2004
Reza Marmoolak (the lizard), a prisoner with the ability to climb any walls, cuts himself in the prison and is taken to the hospital. There, he is in the same room with an influential Mullah, which introduces him to a meaningful sentence. “For each person in the world, there is a unique way of finding God”. Reza steals Mullah’s clothing and escapes the hospital in disguise. When he attempts to leave the country, the people of a village near the border mistake him for the promised mullah of their mosque. Reza starts preaching to the people in his own way, using the famous sentence he heard, and also using his own criminal ways to handle tricky situations.
He becomes popular among the people to a point in which people start believing in his miracles! Although The Lizard is a movie to show that anyone can change and appreciate the truth, the sensitive nature of its theme made lots of controversies, and it was taken off the Iranian cinemas after a short time.
Yek Etefaghe Sade/a Simple Event 1973
A simple event shows the routine daily life of a kid called Mohammad who lives with his sick mother, and fisherman father. His life is a circle of getting up, going to school, having a simple lunch, delivering illegal fish his father caught to the market, and taking the money to his father who is waiting in the bar. We witness these events repeatedly as this minimalist movie reminds us of the works of Raymond Carver and Robert Bresson.
A Simple Event doesn’t have many dialogues. It is as simple as it gets, trying to show the life of an obedient boy who gets punished at school for not answering the questions and gets beaten by his father at home. The lack of human emotion between the characters, and the naked reality of poverty leaves a sad feeling in the heart of the viewer.