A look at Beyond The Clouds director Majid Majidi's most moving films, from Children of Heaven to Baran
A look at legendary Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi's greatest movies in a career spanning nearly three decades.
Majid Majidi — a lifelong admirer of Satyajit Ray — always wanted to tell a story set in India. The celebrated Iranian director has always been fascinated with Ray's cinematic outlook and how his heroes came from everyday life.
Much like Ray, Majidi's films are simple tales that explore complex themes aided by some gentle social commentary. They are all rich and fascinating poetic meditations on familial relationships, the innocence of children and the importance of faith — with some films more explicitly religious than others.
This perhaps explains why Majidi is arguably more famous in India than his own country — a sentiment he himself agrees with.
The illustrious Iranian filmmaker finally fulfilled his dream of an India-set project with Beyond The Clouds, starring Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan. After completing the festival circuit with premieres at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival and the 48th International Film Festival of India, the film finally releases this Friday.
So, let's take a look at some of Majid Majidi's greatest films in a career spanning nearly three decades.
Children of Heaven (1997)
Before Beyond The Clouds, there was another Majidi film which highlighted the sister and brother bond in an unforgettably, heart-warming way. In what is easily his most famous film, Majidi tells a poignant tale of childhood, innocence and compassion in 1997's The Children of Heaven. The film follows the relationship between a young boy and his little sister, Ali and Zahra, who are forced to make sacrifices for each other as they attempt to share an old pair of sneakers without the knowledge of their impoverished, combative father. In this humanistic exploration of childhood, Majidi proves that the stories of children can be just as though-provoking as they are beautiful. Amir Farrokh Hashemian and Bahare Seddiqi deliver unforgettable performances in this beloved film. Children of Heaven was even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1998.
The Color of Paradise (1999)
The Color of Paradise follows an eight year old blind boy named Mohammed and his father Hashem, who is hoping to remarry following the death of his wife. The resentful Hashem is bitterly ashamed of his son’s handicap and sees him only as an obstacle to his own happiness. Ironically, though Mohammed is blind, he sees the world with more clarity than his father, who is blind to the angelic beauty of his loving son. But the father realises it too late as the film ends in a tense, surprisingly tragic climax.
What makes Baran a truly unique film in the Majidi canon is that its story of Afghan refugees is told through the eyes of an adolescent Iranian boy. Set amid the chaos, poverty and political turmoil in 90s Iran, it's a touching but hopeless love story but one that is told in furtive glances and tongue-tied exchanges. A brazen young construction worker named Lateef finds his feelings for a destitute Afghan refugee worker named Rahmat turn from animosity to infatuation when he discovers that he is actually a girl named Baran. Much like his other films, Baran too emphasises the importance of self-sacrifice while exposing the the situation of the Afghan refugees in Iran. Majidi tells this tale of sympathy, compassion and humanity with a tightly constructed narrative, potent symbolism and the expertise of his frequent collaborator, the cinematographer Mohammad Davudi.
The Willow Tree (2005)
The Willow Tree is really a companion piece to The Color of Paradise as it examines what it means to be blind (metaphorically). But it takes a more darker approach and one deeply rooted in spirituality. Youssef is a middle-aged husband and father, who after 38 years of being blind regains his sight. But his restored vision ends up being more of a curse than a blessing as he finds it hard to cope with the world around him. Gorgeously photographed, the film raises plenty of existential and theological questions that will keep you thinking long after the credits start rolling.
The Song of Sparrows (2008)
Another simple yet moving tale, The Song of Sparrows is about a hapless ostrich-rancher named Karim, who struggles to support his family after he loses his job before suffering a series of painful setbacks. The film's story brings to mind Vittoria de Sica's Italian neorealist masterpiece The Bicycle Thief. It is still told in a heartfelt manner thanks to a wonderfully dynamic cast. It hails the simplicity and traditions of rural life while condemning the corrupting influence of urbanisation.
Watch the trailer for Beyond the Clouds below:
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