Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Khorshid
Iran, 2020. Majid Majidi Film Production. Screenplay by Nima Javidi, Majid Majidi. Cinematography by Hooman Behmanesh. Produced by Amir Banan, Majid Majidi. Music by Ramin Kousha. Production Design by Keyvan Moghaddam. Costume Design by Amir Malekpour. Film Editing by Hassan Hassandoost.
Poor children survive on the streets of Tehran by working in groups to relieve luxury cars of their fancy tires which they then repurpose for profit. Four of these boys, most of them fatherless thanks to a rampant drug issue in the city, operate under the guidance of their oldest and most resourceful member Ali, a character who could have come out of a Dickens novel if the great author had written his books two centuries later in Iran. Ali is pulled into the office of a local gangland boss and given an irresistible assignment: there is a treasure buried underneath a tomb in one of the city’s graveyards, and one can access it by digging a tunnel from under the school situated across the street. Fulfilling this job will be good for Ali as his single mother is currently in the hospital, catatonic from shock after a tragedy, and the mafia boss promises he will make it so that Ali can look after her at home instead. Following instructions, the four boys enlist at this school that caters to poor and orphaned boys, its funding from private donors barely covering its needs and prompting exasperated, impatient attitudes from the men who run it (it’s here that director Majid Majidi’s messaging does get a bit heavy-handed). While attending classes above ground and trying to stay out of trouble, the boys spend their free time in the bowels of the building digging an incredibly tight open space towards their goal (anyone with claustrophobia need approach this film with great caution), doing their best to keep anyone from knowing what they are doing. Their vulnerability in the real world is never far behind them, though, from one boy’s family being deported back to Afghanistan while another young man decides that the opportunities of this education are far more valuable than anything that the crypt’s contents can offer. Ali, constantly living life under magnificent stress and managing to stay one step ahead of what pursues him, is determined to achieve his goal, to the point of a spiritual obsession that alienates him from his friends, coming very close to personal danger as his increasing desperation makes him act more recklessly. Of course the ending is devastating, but so is most of this gripping, handsomely filmed and deeply sympathetic film in which Majidi once again shows his remarkable talent for telling bewitching stories about young people. The acting from the kids is extraordinarily good and their plight will capture your heart even when the film is at its least subtle.
Venice Film Festival: Marcello Mastroianni Award