WHO is he?
Iranian filmmaker, scenarist, producer and actor who has directed over 10 feature films since the Eighties. Majidi’s foray into cinema, as was the case with many other fellow Iranian directors, was facilitated by the revolution of 1979, but, unlike Persian filmmakers more recognised by the West, Majidi has not had any falling out with the religious establishment. His internationally successful Children of Heaven (1997) was the first Iranian film nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
WHAT are his films about?
Majidi’s films deal with familial ties, primarily that between father and son. Characters reconcile with their estranged fathers, find new father figures and take up the role of fathers. They look to the natural world to find peace, hope and consolation. Running is a prominent physical motif in these films and we see characters running on the city streets far and away from life. Majidi’s films typically have a genuinely poetic ending in which the old gives way to the new and transcendence is achieved. Children feature saliently in these films.
Majidi’s seamless continuity-based aesthetic is reminiscent of the best of classical Hollywood. Especially, his acutely sensitive editing style that cuts from one character’s eye movement to another’s reminds one of John Ford and Budd Boetticher. Majidi frequently uses close-ups, specifically those of hands and legs, bird’s eye establishing shots, natural light, ambient soundtrack, an earthy colour palette and slow motion and tracking shots.
WHY is he of interest?
Majidi has been criticised for being a populist, conformist filmmaker who glosses over issues that plague his country. True, his films showcase a picture of Iran vastly different from the ones presented in the films of his more politicised contemporaries, but it would be more instructive to look at Majidi’s oeuvre as a portrait of working class dignity based on classical human values such as sacrifice, hard work and communal living.
WHERE to discover him?
Children of Heaven, the director’s most endearing and, certainly, most popular film, revolves around two siblings who must share a pair of shoes without the knowledge of their parents. Majidi’s remarkably constructed film is a snapshot of childhood in all its richness and frailty that abstains from refracting it through the condescending perspective of adulthood.