Release Date: February 1, 1990
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Production Company: Kanoon
I remember in the 1990s reading about a movie renaissance in Iran, but never had the opportunity to see any Iranian films at the time and have failed to follow up in the ensuing decades. So consider this my late arrival to the party. This is a strange film in that everyone in the movie plays themselves, and yet it’s not really a documentary either. The movie documents the trial of Hossain Sabzian, a man who posed as famed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, convincing the Ahanhkah family that he was going to have them appear in his next film.
Kiarostami learned of Sabzian’s arrest, which was sensationalized by the media, and got permission to film his trial. He then got all the people involved, Sabzian, the Ahankah family, media, police, et al to play themselves recreating various parts on their story. The film is edited to create a narrative form that appears that it should be a a fictional film starring actors. The twist at the end of the film is perhaps the most surprising bit of movie magic.
I found it interesting to watch an Iranian trial as the defendant, plaintiffs, and witnesses all sit together. The judge talks with all of them at various parts of the trial instead of calling up one witness at a time like in Western courts. There is also a heavy emphasis placed by the judge on asking the family to forgive Sabzian. Over all it’s a clever and interesting movie based on a somewhat mundane real life event.