Salaam Isfahan + The House is Black
Mon 26 Feb 2018, 20:30
Het Bos, Antwerp
PART OF Visite Film Festival IV
Salaam Isfahan

“Azari’s gentle approach to the topic means that instead of forcing responses from her subjects, she often uses silence as a tool to elicit a deeper, thoughtful response. [...] At the most, her questions are broad, ‘where are you going?’ or ‘do you know a poem?’ As they start to answer, growing confidence relaxes them enough to make stronger statements about life in Iran. There is a certain poignancy in these interactions, fleeting as they are; they are moments during which the subjects unhesitatingly entrust the filmmaker with their secrets. Azari treats her subjects with great dignity and the narrative works on several levels. While capturing the political climate is an important element of the film, it is just as much about the subjects themselves as individual characters leading lives of intrinsic significance.”

Shweta Kishore1


“Many participants in the film are all too keen to have their photos taken for a European documentary. Their willingness indicates their need to be heard, their need to be recognised as an individual. What is perhaps most poignant in this documentary is the fleeting moments captured before the click of the shutter, where people’s reactions and gestures allow brief insights into themselves as they nervously look at the camera or unabashedly pose. [...]

In a final series of photos, a young couple poses on a bridge that traverses a dry riverbed. They express frustrations about the fraudulent election that touch the audience and make them wonder about Iran’s future. When asked where they are going, the young man replies that they are off to join the demonstrations and to ‘get beaten up’.”


Khaneh siah ast
The House is Black


Soms in de schemering zien we een heldere ster.
De ster heet Venus.
Venus is heel helder.
De planeet Venus is heel dichtbij ons.
De planeet Venus twinkelt niet naar ons.

Gedicht gelezen door een leerling in The House is Black


In The House is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963) zien we een monumentaal beeld van een leprapatiënt in een leprakolonie in Iran. Hij zingt en geeft het ritme aan met zijn blote voeten. Zijn ogen zien niets en hij mist stukken van zijn lichaam. Hij geeft het ritme aan door met de overgebleven vingers van zijn hand te knippen. Het zijn slechts fragmenten van zijn lichaam die nog een geluid voortbrengen. Toch heeft dit lied een universele kracht. Zo eenvoudig hij daar staat, wordt hij het centrum van iets veel groters. Hoewel het lied geen woorden bevat, verhaalt het van hun lot. Hij en de andere zieken zijn collectief tot eenzaamheid veroordeeld; door hoge muren afgescheiden van de gezonde mensen. Farrokhzad toont hen in een spiegel en spiegelt in hen de Iraanse gemeenschap. Deze muzikant draagt ondanks alles een genereuze kracht uit, ook al is hij blind. In plaats van een blik terug te werpen, zendt hij muziek uit, die zich als een warmtebron in iedere richting uitbreidt.

Nina de Vroome


“From the opening sequence of a young women looking in a mirror, her distorted features partially covered by a veil, you are utterly compelled to watch. This compulsion has nothing to do with ridicule or perversity; nor is it a reflection of our contemporary tendency to fetishize the grotesque. The critic Hal Foster has written that for many of us, “truth resides in the traumatic or abject subject, in the diseased or damaged body. Thus body is the evidentiary basis of important witnessing to truth, of necessary witnessing against power.” For Farrokhzad, witnessing the damaged bodies in the Tabriz leper colony became evidence not just of a resistance to power (one section of the documentary does underline the connection between the disease and poverty) but of making a new aesthetic as well.

The sequence of the woman in the mirror sets the film’s tone; slowly and deliberately it inches toward a close up. When it stops, you realize that the young women is looking out at us, as much as she is looking in at the mirror.”

Robert Enright1


“When we see this film the least we learn is how – just like Christ – to look for white teeth in the carcass of a dog. With this film, Forough teaches us that the person who closes his eyes on darkness has committed two mistakes: First, she perpetuates that darkness, because unless we look at darkness we won’t do something to make it bright; and second, by closing our eyes on darkness, we deny ourselves the sight of the amazing light that palpitates in the heart of that darkness and which is called life.”

Mohsen Makhmalbaf