Part of an Iranian filmmaking dynasty, 23-year—old SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF’s third feature is released in the UK this fortnight. Tom Dawson catches up with her and finds a very old head on young shoulders.
Quoting Jean-Luc Godard’s maxim that cinema was invented to show reality but has become a means of entertainment, the precocious Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf (The Apple, Blackboards) stresses that in her new film At Five in the Afternoon, ‘l was trying not to lie. I wanted to show the reality of Afghanistan and what it is like for women who lived under the Taliban.’ A petite and charmingly earnest 23-year-old, Tehran-born Makhmalbaf explains that from an early age she felt a profound affinity with Afghanistan and its people. As an eight-year-old she acted in her father Mohsen’s The Cyclist and befriended the Afghani immigrants on set. Later, while Mohsen shot Kandahar, she travelled to the Iran-Afghanistan border and photographed women and children who were struggling to survive in conditions of abject poverty. ‘When I heard America was bombing this country, these people - I wondered where they would hide. So I went back there and I made the short film God, Construction and Destruction as part of the 11’09"01 compilation. I wanted to know what was really going on.’
Based in Kabul for several months, Samira toured the city’s schools and asked young women about their futures. ‘I realised they had hopes and desires and they could express themselves. They were so strong and talented and so I decided to make a movie about them.’ And the young filmmaker was also inspired by an encounter in her hotel, when an old man saw her and immediately turned, faced the wall and closed his eyes. ‘Before he had power.
Now what has he got to believe in? The Taliban was not just a power regime, it was part of the culture. If I was going to make a film, I was going to show this man's opinion, even if I didn’t share it.’
Casting At Five in the Afternoon with non- professional actors (as Samira’s younger sister Hana records in the forthcoming documentary Joy of Madness), proved highly problematic, especially given that cinema and filming had been banned under the Taliban. Two days before shooting began, she still hadn’t persuaded Agheleh Rezaie, a young widow with three children, to take the lead role. ‘She was afraid of the return of the Taliban and of
Samira Makhmalbaf (left) with Agheleh Rezaie on the set of At Five in the Afternoon
the Russians. She couldn’t trust anybody. All I could do was give her my love.’
Samira admits that she is increasingly tired of the international publicity process, which makes her homesick for her life with her friends back in Iran. ‘l’m a Tehran girl,’ she smiles, adjusting her veil. Yet one doesn’t doubt, that in her own words, ‘my heart beats for Afghanistan. I hope that my film can change something there and that I can learn something from the people I met there.’
I A! l—ive in the Afternoon opens a! the (3/ 7. G/asgow on Fri (30 Apr. and the / .'i/li/l()t/.‘;f?. [-dinburgh on Fri 7 May. See review." page .30.
DOCUMENTARY BUS 1 74 (15) 119min 0000
Jose Padilha's compelling and disturbing documentary takes another look at the hijacking of a bus in downtown Rio de Janeiro in June 2000. an event which became the most wrdely teleyised hostage drama in BfElle. if not the world. Having amassed two years' worth of research after the event. Padilha re-i’ocuses the original coverage. wl‘rch concentrated on the actions of a loan gunman branded the ‘drugged hijacker". to take issue with the police force's clumsy handling of the situation while. more importantly. telling the story of the hijacker. a young street kid named Sandro. In doing so. Padilha addresses the issue of Rio's shameful street kid problem. a subject also at the heart of another recent Brazilian film. the racy
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A hijack revisited
thriller City of God. Bus I 74 tells us via a series of intervrews with social workers. friends and family how Sandro lost his home and the plot as a child after watching his mother being murdered. Later. as a homeless kid. he was present at and survived the notorious Candelaria massacre. during which the police killed in cold blood seven children who were sleeping outside a church. While the news footage (Culled from 24 hours filmed by various televrsron stations during the five hour crisis) shows in vwrd detail what actually happened on that day. voluminous documentation and across the spectrum iiiterViews tell the vitally important wider story behind the hijacking. It's enough to make you cry. And think. (Miles Fielder) I Fi/nihoiise. Edinburgh fro/n Fri 30 Apr:
MOCKUMENIAHY THE CALCIUM KID (15) 89min 0
Films that have absolutely nothing to recommend them are a rarity indeed. and this low-ish budget British inockiinientary comedy about a young boxer from south London is that i‘aie breed. Made a few years back. but released now I". order to capitalise on the meteoric rise to fame of bland pretty boy ()r'lando Bioon‘ lnext to be seen alongside Brad Pitt in this summer 's most anticipated blockbuster. Troy). this film is . . . utterly dreadful.
The Ca/ciu/n Kid goes down in round one. As co scripted by Derek Hi)‘. re a'itr director Alex de Rakoft. this parody of the Ali Foreman ‘rumole in the ;iingl~;:' lpreViously documented in the film. then l"./e l‘i/ere Kings title bout between Blooms l ambeth inrlkinan and reigning MeXirtan Arr‘errcan champ. .Jose Mende/l. is woefully uninspired. The fake documentary styling rust doesn't convrnce. This early and belated screen appearance b. Bloom (I()l‘.lil'l“f% that this soft lad just doesn't have the charisma to cam, a film. As for the remainder of the cast comedian ()mid Dialili. David Kelly and Billie Piper as the love interest they. too. stink.
No one comes out of this messy molee well. l'his Milky Bar Kid ain't strong enough. (Miles Fielderl I Selected release from Hi 30 Apr. See Big Picture page 8.
here recast as a .'.’()l"(t
A stinky dreadful mess
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