Majidi's tale of a blind boy returning to his mountain home keeps playing up the metaphysical possibilities

Heaven and earth

New Iranian cinema roots its stories in tangible everyday life. But Oscar- nominated filmmaker MAJID MAJIDI's storytelling inspiration in The Color Of Paradise is more divine.

1 Words: Tony McKibbin

In the West. Iran might almost be a byword for religious fanaticism. but its filmmakers often create story-telling suspense out of the immediately tangible: out of nothing more grand than the completion of a task. In Jafar Panahi‘s The White Balloon. a young girl tries to recover money lost down a drain. Abbas Kiarostami's central character in Where Is My Friend's House." travels to his schoolmate’s abode after accidentally taking the friend’s school notebook.

Sometimes the task. though. is more complex and prosaic. In Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s The C_vele. it‘s a grinding circular week-long bike ride as the central character tries to raise money for his ill spouse. Kiarostami’s Taste (2/ Cherry. meanwhile. has the leading character spending the entire film determined to find a man who will bury him. after he’s taken his own life.

On the evidence of The Color Of Paradise. director Majid Majidi's concerns are closer to religious expectation. This tale of a blind boy at a special school who returns to his mountainous home villlage for the summer holidays keeps playing up metaphysical possibilities. At one stage the boy talks about hoping to meet God. Also. Majidi photographs the region with such an eye for the area's beauty it's

‘The Iranian title, The Color Of God, alludes to the intervention of God .' Majid Majidi

not much of a stretch to assume were meant to see the village as heaven on earth. Majidi would happily accept such a reading. ‘The film‘s Iranian title is The Color ()f 6le he says. ‘This alludes to the intervention of God at the end.‘

Viewers less theologically inclined can nevertheless respond to the visual imagery on its own terms. ‘Nature is like a character in this lilm.‘ Majidi insists. The film is especially striking when Majidi‘s craftsmanship allows mother nature to lend a helping hand. There are scenes here that beautifully combine a respect both for framing the image and for the natural world so carefully caught. When the blind boy’s grandmother dies. Majidi wondered how he could do justice to the sense of grief. ‘The shot of the fog used after the death was not in the script. It just happened and we shot it.’

When such happy accidents take place it‘s not surprising the director has faith in divine intervention. ‘Sometimes during the shooting of this film I really

thought the hand of destiny was at work on our


But do Majidi’s visual mastery and religious inclinations leave his film a bit cute‘.’ Kiarostami’s hopes for Iranian film reside in this idea: ‘Cinema

and all the arts ought to be able to destroy the mind of

their audience in order to reject the old values and make it susceptible to new ones.‘ Majidi's clearly more interested in reiterating the established codes. His previous film was also religiously titled -- The Children (If/leave): and his narrative expectations are straightforward.

‘I immediately thought the premise of a father who does not like his blind son could create the central conflict of my plot.’ he says. And if his religious beliefs and storytelling conventions would seem to fit in at home. they‘re also sellable abroad. The Children Of Heaven was Iran‘s first ever ()scar- nominated film. And this follow-up has all the ingredients to have the Academy‘s ()scar voters salivating: lonely kid. beautiful scenery and spiritual transcendence. Is Majidi a maker of pure cinema. then. or pure drivel? That‘s for you to decide.

preview FILM

Rough cuts

Lights, camera, action . . .

FILM GOERS IN Glasgow and Edinburgh have it pretty good. Of the new films being released in the cities over the next week Chinese, Iranian and Spanish cinema shares screen space with blockbuster Hollywood imports. Then there's the repertoire and themed seasons, everything from old vampires (Nosferatu, 1921) to new vampires (The Hunger, 1983), and from new Portuguese cinema to horror weekenders. We're better served than anywhere else in the UK, outside of film industry-centric London.

Glasgow and Edinburgh also host film festivals throughout the year: Italian, French, Spanish, Lesbian and Gay, Documentary, Human Rights, to name but a few. And this month the Edinburgh International Film Festival premieres films from all over Scotland, the UK, Europe and the world. From 13-27 August, this rival to other major film festivals Cannes, Sundance - provides Scottish film goers with a wider choice of films than even the UK capital has to offer.

And yet. There are films which never see the light of day, or dark of a cinema auditorium, in this country outside of the Film Festival. From last year's Film Festival programme a few names stand out: Simon ’The Full Monty’ Beaufoy's The Darkest Light, Australia’s tough answer to NYPD Blue, Red Ball, Bruce LaBruce's skinhead porn piss-take Skin Flick, the mock doc Welcome To Hollywood, the New Zealand marijuana thriller Scarfies, and a rough cuts favourite, Genghis Blues, the astonishing rockumentary about blind American blues singer Paul Pena who travelled to the heart of Asia to participate in a throat singing competition. It's criminal that one's never been screened again round these parts.

Other quality premieres Simon Magus, Judy Berlin, Cabaret Balkan, Himalaya from last year are finally on their way, but if you’re planning for square eyes at this year's celluloid celebration, you might want to earmark those films less likely to hit the local multiplex this autumn.

Not coming soon: Genghis Blues

3—10 Aug 2000 rue usr 13