Majid Majidi

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The Song Of Sparrows Review

A treat in every sense of the word, Majid Majidi's The Song of Sparrows starts in galloping rural comedy and meanders through urban neo-realism before winding itself up with a portrait of family life as resonant as just about anything that's been seen on screen in recent years. Granted -- to paraphrase an indie film executive from the 1990s -- there's just about nothing in the world (huge ad campaign, glowing reviews) that will convince American audiences to go see an Iranian film, no matter that the director's 1997 work The Children of Heaven was nominated for a foreign film Oscar. But if filmgoers decide for once to break that stereotype and seek out Majidi's sumptuous parable, they'll find a real piece of beauty.

What's most refreshing about Majidi's film is how it mines the neo-realist tradition for its loose approach to storytelling while adamantly rejecting the usual leaning toward ragged stylistics and downbeat narratives. While the screenplay (which Majidi co-wrote with Mehran Kashani) certainly doesn't skimp on the harsher realities of life (debt, family tensions), there doesn't seem to be much of a drive here to force bleakness down the audience's throat. It also seems strange to refer to a film as deliriously and sumptuously photographed (by cinematographer Tooraj Mansouri) as this as somehow neo-realist. Rosselini would never have created such a gorgeous Technicolor ode to the Italian countryside, for instance; there also wouldn't have been any ostriches.

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Nansun Shi, Essie Davis, Scott Foundas, Majid Majidi and Gillian Armstrong - Monday 16th June 2008 at Sydney Film Festival Sydney Film Prize at the Sydney Film Festival 2008 at Sydney Opera House Sydney, Australia

Nansun Shi, Essie Davis, Scott Foundas, Majid Majidi and Gillian Armstrong
Essie Davis, Scott Foundas, Majid Majidi, Laura Hastings-smith, Gillian Armstrong and Nansun Shi
Majid Majidi, Gillian Armstrong, Laura Hastings-smith, Essie Davis, Nansun Shi and Scott Foundas

The Color Of Paradise Review

Life has to suck pretty badly when you live in Iran. But if you're a blind kid and your dad wants to be rid of you? Fuggedaboudit.

The Color of Paradise borders on hopeless, with a spiritual message available to those who struggle through it. Unfortunately, the tale of the cursed young Mohammed (Ramezani) is muddled by the subplot of a dying grandmother, a familiar story of a woman trying to let go of life. Zzzzz. Sad and tragic, with but a glimmer of hope at the end.

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Baran Review

Before jumping into the details of this dramatic love story, some cultural details need to be outlined. Afghanistan's poverty is acknowledged fact. From control by the Soviets to that of the Taliban, the average citizen has had little freedom. Hence, refugees risk exhaustive trips to work in neighboring countries, such as Iran, in the hopes of saving money and freeing the rest of their family.

This is where Baran begins, at a construction site mostly functioning on illegal Afghani immigrants, supervised by the kind but frugal Memar (Mohammad Reza Naji). He hires them because they are cheap and work hard, though government officials are constantly popping by to squash the use of this labor force. Iran isn't the richest country either, and the stream of immigrants grows everyday.

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