The Greatest films of all time: 83.Children of Heaven (1997) (Iran)

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Introduction:

In 1980’s at the same time of the revival of Italian cinema and the renaissance in Spanish cinema, a new wave of cinema in a third world country took the world by surprise. Nourished by its history long rich culture and literature specially in poetry and spiritualism, the cinema in Iran took a huge leap in this modern visual art that has survived well to this very day. Adapting Hollywood films from 1930s, the cinema in Iran maintained a commercial nature of depicting storytelling until in the mid to late 1960s when the influence of French Avant Garde and Italian Neo-realism influenced the intellectuals in Iran to use the film medium for their ideology and cultural expressions. Davoud Mollapour with “The husband of Ahoo Khanoom” in 1968, Masoud Kimiai with “Kaiser” and Dariush Mehrjui with “The Cow” revolutionized the commercial films in Iran.

But it was not until the opening of “Institute for the intellectual development of children and adolescents” in 1965 that the modern arts including cinema formally took on the new wave movement and was used as an intellectual and artistic medium of expression. From this institute great filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami, Amir Naderi, Bahram Beyzai, Majid Majidi, and Sohrab Shahid-Saless rose to the world level of great filmmakers and at times surpassed their European contemporaries whom they were influenced by. From this new wave of filmmakers, Abbas Kiarostami took the spiritual, poetic and intellectual side with his major film experience in “The Experience” in 1973, then continued his line of work with “The Traveller” driving around Iran for exploration and perhaps self-discovery, that pleased the western critics immensely. At the same time Bahram Bayzai took on a middle ground and delved into the contemporary Persian culture, suppressed and depressed to the current level after centuries of invasions and occupations in “Ragbar” in 1972 and “Sooteh-Delan” in 1978. Sohrab Shahid-Saless influenced mostly by the French Avant Garde and rich spiritual Persian poetry depicted his culture with his freeze frames and slow camera moves in “A Simple Event” in 1973 and “Still Life” in 1975. Amir Naderi followed Italian neorealism and specifically De Sica to depict the most realistic, unspoiled reality of his culture at least of the poor struggling class with “Harmonica” in 1973 and “The Runner” in 1985.

Growing in “Institute for the intellectual development of children and adolescents” some of these filmmakers having had to make films for or about children, their works were enriched with the sentiments and innocence of this age group. “Harmonica” and “The Runner” by Naderi, “Bashu, the little stranger” by Baizaei, “Where is the Friend’s House?” by Kiarostami, and “The White Balloon” by Jafar Panahi were earlier such depictions. The attention of the world of cinema specially in Europe and Cannes Film Festival had already been absorbed by such rich and novel works from a new line of pure cinema just before “Children of Heaven” of Majid Mojidi hit the screens worldwide. The purity, simplicity and innocence of the lives in the film was an awakening and inspiration for the rest of global cinema that longed to see another neo-realistic work since “Bicycle Thieves” of De Sica. The attention was so high and far as North America where the film was the first Iranian film to be nominated for the best foreign language film in 1999 to lose only to “Life is beautiful” of Roberto Bengini. But the film was the first Persian film to win the Newport Film Festival, the Warsaw International Film Festival, and the Singapore International Film Festival, Montreal Film Festival and to compete for the Grand prize at the American Film Institute’s Festival in 1997.  

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From Earth to Heaven:

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The Greatest films of all time: 83.Children of Heaven (1997) (Iran)

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