Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Song of Sparrows. (2008) Majid Majidi

I've had a pretty good run with rentals at the moment, so over the next few days I'm going to list some DVDs that are well worth checking out.

I haven't seen a Majidi film in quite a few years now -- my last viewing may have been Baran, which I saw in May of 2003. So it's been seven years since I took in a Majid Majidi film, but he's never left my mind as one of the world's best storytellers. There was the touching simplicity of an innocent boy searching the city for his sister's lost shoes, in the Academy Award nominated Children of Heaven ('97). And then there was the moving and heartfelt The Color of Paradise ('99) -- another global award winning film about a blind Tehranian boy, who sees better than those who have healthy eyes. There's a palpable, emotive nature in these movies of the rare kind that you'll always remember. I don't know of many stories that have moved me so much, or many directors who so exquisitely weave together the simple and the profound.

Song of Sparrows is the latest of Majidi's weaving and wonder experience. A comic tone turns quickly to tragedy when working rancher Karim chases a runaway ostrich across a barren countryside. Having lost his bird and thus his job, he returns home to find his daughter's hearing aid no longer works. He knows he needs to find work fast -- her exams are coming up and she needs to hear in order to pass. Out of love for his family, he ends up in Tehran and almost blessedly learns how to earn quick cash. Days go by and Karim motorbikes to and from the city, taxiing business men to their city locations. The money grows fast and Karim quickly learns the value of the city and its possessions.

The story is about a family and survival and needs. It's also about wants and material desire and priorities. Of course there are tragedies that lead to learning points along the way. It's hard to believe that one of the greatest morals coming out of a story from Iran might just be that of the dangers of materialism. It's just one more reason Majidi relates so well with westerners. Their story might look different, it might even sound and feel different, but it's no doubt the same story we also face.

As in previous Majidi works there are standard entrancing images: lovely, unforgettable children; the singing of joy and later despair (my favorite is when the singing of despair produces joy). And there are unforgettable visuals where our eyes and soul collide: Karim staggering across a large field with a blue door stuck to his back; hundreds of goldfish intended for sale, instead spilled on the city pavement. The visuals alone are almost worth the watch -- but here, they always represent something more.

Majidi dedicates every film with a title card reading, "In the Name of God." The name of his god is very similar to my Father -- my prayer is that my Father sees his heart. I hope to someday have the chance to sit down with a man who brings such artistry to the human experience. I long for the day when our cultures have the chance to take notes and learn from one another.

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