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Bahman Kiarostami, son of the prominent Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who died a few years ago, fulfills the principles of cinema-as-eye in his Exodus. Here he grabs the camera and simply – observes people. From this unusually simple and natural, as it seems, act of observation results very much.

Kiarostami takes his viewers to a transit point, which is the last stop on the way to the  homeland for those Afghans who massively (due to enormous inflation and a drop in the value of money caused by Western sanctions) leave Iran. Here, in a building provisionally arranged for the needs of civil servants, he looks at both the work of Iranians – through their hands will pass the applications of people returning home. We will see the faces of migrants: workers, young families and all those for whom the work in Iran became unprofitable.

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The Iranian artist collects stories. Exodus is a wonderful portrait of the character of the Middle East. Not once will we be surprised by their openness, extremely personal questions asked by the officials, the lack of importance attached to the value of names or the use of lies and bypassing the truth.

The film is a subtle criticism of both the West, which is responsible for the huge economic crisis that affected the region (and – of course – for the never-ending war in the Middle East), as well as Iran itself, which is unable to provide its citizens and guests with decent living conditions – there are no regulations on the labor market, no insurance nor other social benefits, low, unregulated wages, etc.

People who leave Iran are returning to a country still in the grip of many years of war. They do it because, despite the constant danger and threat of the Taliban, it is easier for basic existence there. The is one especially significant situation portrayed in the film. One of the officials asks a little boy what children in his age usually do. The boy replies: “In Afghanistan? They go to school. Here? They collect rubbish”.

Exodus shows the artificiality of armed conflicts that are clashing with the needs of ordinary people. Needs that should be treated by states as a basic human right – the right to a dignified life.

Iranian artists – Bahman Kiarostami is not an isolated case – prove how little it takes to create a valuable image full of simple warmth and sympathy. Here’s a way to create a cinema that has been around since the dawn of the medium – all you have to do is take the camera and look carefully.

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Mateusz Tarwacki

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Laura Przybylska
Laura Przybylska