STRAY DOGS (Marzieh Mishkini, 2004)

On the bombed streets of Kabul, on their own, a young brother and sister, Zahed and Gol-Ghotai, along with countless other children, scavenge to survive. The pair discover a charred book; like wood scraps, this can be sold for burning—for heat. The U.S.-Taliban war in Afghanistan—punctuating shots show a U.S. plane high in the sky—has […]

THE CYCLIST (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1987) and ELEPHANT (Alan Clarke, 1988)

These two films are failures for much the same reason. From Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Bicycleran is reminiscent of the anti-American Depression-set Hollywood film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), while the British Elephant, Alan Clarke’s final film, plagiarizes the “relay” structure of Chantal Äkerman’s glorious Toute une nuit (1982), turning its vignettes of romantic couplings […]

AT FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON (Samira Makhmalbaf, 2003)

Written by Iran’s Mohsen Makhmalbaf and daughter Samira, Panj é asr is a compassionate film about post-Taliban Afghanistan that appreciates both religious elders and the young who yearn for self-determination, and a visionary film, a circular “road picture” that keeps returning to the school where girls are encouraged to think about national affairs and how […]