04 April 2009

The Song of Sparrows

Directed by: Majid Majidi
Written by: Mehran Kashani & Majid Majidi
Full credits from IMDb

Grade: 3/5

The Song of Sparrows, a serio-charming slice of Iranian neo-realism, shrouds grave matters like despondence and destitution in the trappings of a culture-contrast comedy. Concealing social criticism to curtail the censors is by now standard operating procedure in Iran. And so, for a while, the film plays its desperation for laughs. Karim (the hard-scrabble-faced Reza Najie) works at an ostrich farm, an inherently hilarious location thanks to the creatures’ rubber golf club neck-and-head combos. Director Majid Majidi exploits the setting for a few comic set pieces: a gaggle of workers scrambling after a runaway ostrich; Karim hunting that escapee in the desert, bent over, clad in a cape of ostrich feathers, brandishing an ersatz ostrich neck-head made of wood. But beneath the ostensibly laughable bubbles something more serious: Karim is poor, living in an impoverished (yet quasi-Edenic) village, and he has a wife and three children to support, one of whom is almost as deaf as a post and in need of a new hearing aid. A lost ostrich translates into a lost job, which he can’t afford. Soon, the shots of ostriches shed their risibility and assume a taunting and contemptible air.

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