Happy Noruz!


POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

In celebration of the Persian New Year, known as Noruz, that falls on the first day of the vernal equinox (this year on March 20), the Honolulu Academy of Arts presents a diverse selection of films from Iran, as well as a Persian-themed animated movie from France.




'Persian Nights'

        » Place: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St.

» Time: Thursday through March 25


» Call: 532-8768


» Note: Da Spot will be selling Middle Eastern food for purchase in the Luce Pavilion courtyard from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. through March 11 before the screenings.




“;Persian Nights”; includes two of the most recently released films by feminist Tamineh Milani, whom Tehran authorities arrested for in 2001 for her defiant filmmaking and for speaking out against the revolution of 1979.

Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were among the American filmmakers who came to her defense and caused the government to release her after only two weeks of imprisonment. But official charges were never dropped.

(Last year, Milani—whose melodramas are box-office hits in her home country—withdrew from being a jurist at the 12th Iran Cinema Celebration following the removal of some of the festival's films.)

The schedule includes:

» ”;Santouri: The Music Man”; (1 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday): A contemporary drama from the influential and celebrated director Dariush Mehrji, who has the distinction of being censored by both the Shah of Iran and the Islamic fundamentalists that followed in the wake of the country's revolution.

The life of a heroin addict who plays the ancient-stringed santoor takes a tragic downward spiral after authorities ban him from playing in public and his wife leaves him.

» ”;Maxx”; (1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday): A box-office hit in 2005, Saman Moghaddam's comedy of errors is about a Los Angeles nightclub performer who receives an invitation to participate in a prestigious musical festival in Tehran—not knowing that the invitation was originally intended for a prominent symphony conductor with a similar name.

» ”;Unwanted Women”; (1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday): The first of two back-to-back films by Milani, this contemporary drama is about Sima, a woman trapped in a marriage with Ahmad, her philandering and abusive husband. Ahmad is so blatant in his indiscretions that he asks his wife to cover for him when he plans a trip with his mistress Saba. In a country where unmarried couples can be arrested for fraternizing in public, Ahmad needs Sima to pretend that Saba is his cousin.

When the humiliated and heartbroken Sima and the couple's young daughter accompany Ahmad and Saba on their trip, a surprising turn occurs when they stop in a town where a man has just murdered his wife for her alleged affair.

» ”;Ceasefire”; (7:30 p.m. Monday and 1 p.m. Tuesday): An irreverent and incisive romantic comedy by Milani about a young couple—she's naive and he's a chauvinist—who are seeking divorce, but end up realizing that they just need to reform their childish and selfish ways to overcome their difficulties.

» ”;The Last Supper”; (7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday): In this provocative drama, a female university professor ends her unhappy 16-year marriage on the advice of her progressive, college-age daughter. In the midst of this life-changing transition, a handsome young student declares his love for her. The young man's relentless courtship presents a serious dilemma when the professor discovers that her daughter is in love with her suitor.

» ”;Cafe Setareh”; (7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. March 12 and 13): The latest film from “;Maxx”; director Moghaddam is a triptych of tales about three women who work in the titular cafe in a poor Tehran neighborhood. Fariba, who operates the cafe, is married to Fereidoon, a unemployed alcoholic who sponges off her; Saloomeh, whom Fereidoon's equally boorish friend plans to marry, takes care of her blind, highly literate father; and Moluk, the middle-aged landlady, pines for a man who has his own problems.

» ”;Azur & Asmar”; (1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. March 15, 21 and 22; 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 23; 1 and 7:30 p.m. March 17 through 19, and 24 and 25; and 1 p.m. March 20): The festival ends with an extended run of a colorful and luminous family film by French director Michel Ocelot. Dubbed in English, the story is about two boys lovingly raised simultaneously by Asmar's mother, the nanny who looks after Prince Azur. She tells them stories of her faraway homeland and of the beautiful Djinn Fairy waiting to be set free.

When the boys come of age, the prince is sent away to study, and Asmar and his mother are driven away by Azur's father, leaving them homeless. But the two young men are later reunited—this time as adversaries—as they go on a quest to find the Djinn Fairy.

(See next week's HiLife for a review of “;Azur & Asmar.”;)