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Film Review

The Song of Sparrows

The Song of Sparrows, modest, but a gem, was written and directed by Majid Majidi, a gifted Iranian film maker best known for his films, Children of Heaven (1998) and The Willow Tree (2005). It's the lovely, very sweet, poignant story of Karim, a poor Iranian farmer, working on an ostrich ranch, until an ostrich escapes and he is fired. The film both opens and closes with a striking shot of an ostrich, and includes hilarious sequences of men chasing the ostrich into the hills, and later, an attempt to lure the ostrich back by dressing up as a decoy ostrich. Karim has a loving wife and three children, but one day his eldest daughter, who is deaf, drops her hearing aid in a well. He is forced to leave his village to go to Tehran to get it fixed. He is astonished at the frenzied pace of life there, finds it fascinating, and filled with opportunities for profit and exploitation. Karim is stopped at a traffic light on his motor bike when a business man, thinking Karim a taxi, jumps on behind, directs him to a hotel, and tips him handsomely. This begins a series of adventures, some of which do not turn out well. Karim is astonished at the things thrown away at construction sites, and begins to bring more and more things home, such as a television antennae and windows. Soon he has accumulated an enormous pile of junk next to his house, with calamitous results. Majidi focuses on Karim's character, his faith and perseverance, and the many tests of that faith and his morals. But other characters are beautifully developed as well, including a much older co-worker at the ostrich farm and his eldest daughter. She turns out to have a wonderful talent, that is hidden until the end of the film.

The cinematography is outstanding, often gorgeous, with some scenes that will stay with you for a long time, such as an aerial shot of Karim carrying a blue door on his back through a plowed field. The film is almost a travelog, with fascinating scenes of everyday life in Iran, both in the country and in Tehran. Although a well known (at least in Iran) actor, Reza Naji, plays Karim, the many children are nonprofessionals who are all wonderfully directed. The Song of Sparrows is so rich in its humanity and depiction of life in Iran. It is a treasure, and I loved it. Just opened at the Lumiere, only for one week, alas.

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