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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
7:30 p.m. Trial
Moslem Mansouri (Iran/U.S., 2002)

PFA Collection Video

(Mohakemeh). “Our life is a movie! You shouldn’t be making another one,” an angry mother shouts, but her daughter is out the gate, determined to join a group of clandestine actors and filmmakers in a waiting van. In the dusty village of Khosro, twenty kilometers from Tehran, work can be found at the brick kiln, but amateur film production gives the locals something to live for. Or did, until the authorities discovered this community pastime, and writer-director Ali Matini was imprisoned. Now all but a few shun the project on pain of arrest. But Matini and company dared to make one more film so that the better-known director Moslem Mansouri (once a political prisoner himself) could document their art and courage. With a donkey for a dolly, the crew quips, “Even Orson Welles cannot work like this.” But then, Welles can’t honestly say, as Matini does, “Our life is what Kafka described. . . . We are hanging from the gallows of cinema.”

—Judy Bloch

• Photographed by Shahryar Asadi. With Ali Matini, Husain Sabzian, and the people of Khosro village. (45 mins, In Farsi with English subtitles, Color, Beta SP, PFA Collection, permission of the artist)

Preceded by short:
The House Is Black (Khaneh siah ast) (Forough Farrokhzad, Iran, 1963). This classic of Iranian cinema presents a haunting and sympathetic examination of life in a Tabriz leper colony. (21 mins, In Farsi with English electronic subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, permission Ebrahim Golestan)

• (Total running time: 66 mins. Presented with support from the Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Endowment.)