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Where is the (My) Friend's House?


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He may have made better films, like Taste of Cherry, but I believe this is my favorite Kiarostami movie. On the surface, it's a simple story of a child trying to return a notebook to a friend. Looked at closely, it's an incisive examination of Iranian society and politics, and the struggle of the individual to act morally in an indifferent and irrational universe. Plus, it's filled with his wonderful imagery.

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Poignant is an understatement. And it's a fantastic film.


There seems to be something wrong or incomplete with Robert's outro, though. It was very sad to hear him say that both boys who played the friends were killed in an earthquake that pretty much leveled that village two years after the film was made.


But last night's *Story of Film* episode indicated that the boy playing the lead was indeed found and appeared later in *Through the Olive Trees.* And iMDB indicates that the boy who played his friend was also in that later film.

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You need to see SECRET BALLOT (2001)


In fact, TCM needs to show this film because it is a real classic, made by an Iranian director who grew up in Iran, then as a young man moved to Canada. He was later arrested in Iran while trying to make a film the government didn't approve of.


Secret Ballot tells about a young Iranian lady trying to collect election ballots on a small Iranian island, and how she is met with suspicion by the local people.


In this clip, the guy driving the jeep represents the government of Iran.




The entire film is a very dry comedy about the nice and honorable lady trying to help with the election, but the local people are so backward and primitive and fearful of the government, they don't want to vote, they don't know who is running for office, they've never voted before. This turned out to be a very funny film, with the nice lady reacting to everyone just as you and I would react to them today if we met them and tried to reason with them.


The film TCM aired was made by a government agency and approved by the government. I usually don't like government propaganda films. That long story told by the old man, about how to beat a child until he obeys orders without question, was a typical government propaganda tool just like the kind the Nazis used.


The director of SECRET BALLOT:



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Didn't watch it last night, but recorded it, and just watched it. I have to say, every time I see it, I like this film better. It's wonderful to see the indefatigable Ahmed, impelled by his moral imperative, in spite of the roadblocks authority figures present; the indifference and incomprehension of his mother, the absurd and arbitrary ideas of his elders-who rob the value of punishment by it's indiscriminate application, the lack of interest in helping him find his friend. And even when he finds someone willing to help, he turns out to be weak, obsolete, and his help worthless. Only his individual dedication to help his friend by doing his homework for him, and giving him his booklet in time, is successful in keeping his friend from being expelled. A terrific statement of the value of individual initiative against unthinking obedience to authority.


Not only is the story engaging, but visually it's a treat to watch. Kiarostami plays with framing against the wide-screen format, creating narrow vertical views, and horizontal rectangle openings. Passages are placed against impassable walls and doorways. Paths diverge at oblique angles, up and down and sideways. The effect is to portray Ahmed's journey to his friend's village is an entry into a labyrinth.


There are a number of fine Iranian directors, such as Majid Majidi, who made The Children of Heaven, and The Color of Paradise, but Kiarostami has what John Ford would call "an eye," meaning he knows how to take a picture; and he has a penetrating insight into the human spirit, and an unfailing confidence in people and their ability to live with dignity even in the most disastrous circumstances.

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