Tuesday, December 19, 2006

29. Iranian director Amir Naderi's evocative "Aab, baad, khaak" (Water, Wind, Dust) (1989): Evocative and uplifting film on human values

This is an unusual film of exceptional values--75 minutes long in color, with hardly any spoken dialogs. I saw this Iranian film in Farsi without English subtitles at the Early Iranian cinema retrospective at the recent International Film Festival of Kerala, India. That I was watching a print without subtitles did not make a difference as there were very few lines of spoken dialogs.

This is a very accessible film for any audience to enjoy--its story and values are not merely Iranian; it's universal.

The film is set in rural Iran that had not tasted petro-dollar prosperity. The setting is on fringes of desert land, where water is scarce, rainfall scanty and hardly any blade of grass is green. Add to it wind and dust that buffets and whips man and animal and you can imagine plight of the people who live on the fringes of society.

The film is moving tale of a young teenager returning to his village with a goat--only to find his family and villagers have moved on to escape natures vagaries and that one old man remains. He gives the goat to him and goes in search of his family. Water is scarce and well water it treated with reverence and never wasted. The boy is infuriated when he sees the water being used to cool the engine of a truck. A toddler is left behind by some family that cannot tend it. The boy takes care of the child but finds it tough going and asks other families to take care. Nobody wants another mouth to feed. A bucket of water left by the boy is more useful for passing families than the child. Finally, the child is picked up by one large family and the boy is happy.

He is so caring that he saves two fishes that would have died without water by throwing them in the well. He trudges on surviving on a watermelon left behind by someone.

The boy tries to get some water for a person who was accidentally buried under sand but there is no water in the well. He digs another but there is no water. He is tired and prays for water. He digs again at another site, wishing that the dead fishes that appear in his dream can survive. Metaphorically the earth opens up and a sea of water gushes out to strains of Beethoven's 5th symphony.

If the Iranian government publicizes such works of artistic merit, Iran would be better appreciated elsewhere. The film won a top award at the Nantes Film Festival.

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