SFIFF: The White Meadows

B+ The White Meadows

I’m sort of live blogging here, writing this on a Mac in the San Francisco International Film Festival press lounge, just after watching the movie. If this seems unpolished, there’s a reason: I’m writing this and posting it quickly.

Before this strange and beautiful Iranian fantasy screened, a staff member told us that writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof recently spent some time in prison. That’s not hard to believe after watching the movie. There was some definate political satire here, although not of the constant belly laugh variety.

The central character, an aging man with sad eyes, travels by rowboat through a strange seascape in a remote and salty place (I hesitate to say “land”). The people he visits live on islands in a very salty sea, with salt covering the land as well in great mounds. One wonders where these people find food and fresh water.

His job? He listens to people’s tales of woe, and collects their tears. Why does he collect tears? He doesn’t want to talk about it, but he keeps a close eye on the bottle he’s slowly filling.

The people have their own customs, disconnected from anything I’ve heard of about Islam or Iran. A young “bride” turns out to be a human sacrifice. A man is tortured for insisting that the sea isn’t always blue. This isn’t reality, of course, but a fable about life in a theocracy.

The White Meadows is an astonishingly beautiful film, filled with striking, forbidding, yet lovely white landscapes and seascapes. The mood is oppressive, watchful, and occasionally funny in a dry, painful way. The lead character is hardly sympathetic, but his sad eyes and the people he meets move and fascinate you.

Not a must, but worth catching if you can.

It will screen twice more at the festival. It will play again at the Kabuki tomorrow (Saturday) at 9:30, then Sunday the 25th at the Pacific Film Archive at 8:00.

3 thoughts on “SFIFF: The White Meadows

  1. I so agree – this was a beautiful, subversive, poetic film. I’ve just ordered his first feature (Iron Island) on Netflix. This director is something else. I liked your quick review it hit the nail on the head!

  2. Mr. Spector, After reading this post, I wanted to provide you with some deep background on famed Iranian directors Mohammad Rosoulof and Jafar Panahi, the latter of whom was also exclusive editor on Meadows. Mr. Rasoulof’s out of jail on $100K bail, but Mr. Panahi is getting the Winston Smith treatment in Evin prison’s infamous Section 209 as the authorities try to break his will, and all without charge! Look it up. In fact, all you have to do is go to my Facebook wall for updates. All Iranian cinema and the Greens all the time, including screening schedules of Meadows now being held at Tribeca.

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/?ref=home

    FYI Jafar Panahi’s Facebook page is now posting new reports on my wall, and son Panah has voted two of my own up. You may also notice my new posts both match and lead those of Mr. Panahi’s Facebook page by about an hour on average. I’ve been feeding him some juicy news reports from recent Google searches. Been following his story for awhile now.

    Keep in mind that there are two more screenings of White Meadows today and tomorrow in SF, and three more at Tribeca in NYC. Check that deep background and look at the screenings from that angle. Change your perspective? Like the screenings should be rallying points, too? More than just a movie? Your call on the link. But lots of good info that’s good enough for the Panahis, so that’s good enough for me :)

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