We saw ‘Quartet: A Journey to North‘ by Amir Reza Koohestani & Mahin Sadri at the Bellevue Theatre tonight. Quartet tells the story of two murders in contemporary Iran through the intertwined narratives of the two killers and two witnesses.
Definitely reminded me (both in terms of stage setup and narrative) of the works by Rabih Mroué. Also one of the video stills looked almost exactly as this pictures i took in Abyaneh last fall:
Looks peacefull but while we were enjoying the play a newborn Eurasian Coot was drowning in the canal outside of the theatre under the eyes of the helpless parents. R.I.P little fulica atra!
So the big non-news of last week has been the release of the long anticipated ‘anti-islam’ movie ‘fitna‘ by the dutch clown/politican Geert Wilders. not only was he too stupid to release the movie via bittorrent (which would have scaled with demand much better & allowed for better quality) he also actually confirmed what i had always assumed, namely that he is too stupid to make a proper film: ‘fitna’ is not much more than an amateurish powerpoint show that shows that wilders has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.
So while the media (in holland) were wasting their time and energy on the the release of ‘fitna’ and were desperately trying to find someone on the streets who would talk about some kind of violent uprising there were actually two much more interesting developments at the intersection of film and islam last week:
First the Lebanese general security department reversed a decision to ban screenings of the prize-winning animated film Persepolis in Lebanon. This move came after an initial decision to ban the film for being offensive to islam and offensive towards Iran (Iran is the backer of the influential lebanese Hezbollah party). Needless to say this move will have multiplied interest by the moviegoing public in Persepolis (which, regardless of repeated attempts i still have not seen).
Secondly i came across (via boingboing) this marvelous video snippet from some Iraqi TV channel wherein a distinguished gentlemen (identified as Fadhel Al-Said, a ‘researcher on astronomy’) eloquently explains why the earth is flat and the sun is circling around the earth. enjoy… (made possible by the ever productive propaganda translators at memritv.org)
Watched a screening of ‘Tehran has no more pomegranates!‘ by Massoud Bakhshi this afternoon, which turned out to be a beautiful film that manages to pay homage to the incredibly strange and complex reality of the city of Tehran. While Tehran is one of the least likely city to fall in love with it had a certain strange attraction to me. tehran has no more pomegranates! manages to somehow capture this attraction and to turn it into an extremely entertaining complex portrait of the city. Bakhshi intelligently juxtaposes old documentary footage (and extremely beautiful pictures of bearded men) with footage he has shot in Tehran over the last 5 years or so (including lots of time lapse shots of crazy traffic). The film starts off with the observation by someone called Asar-o-blad (no idea who that is since google returns exactly 0 results) who in 1241 remarked that:
Tehran is a village near the city of Ray. It’s inhabitants live in anthill like underground holes. Tehranis’ main occupation is theft and crime. They fight each other and can’t obey any king. They grow excellent pomegranates which are found only in Tehran.
The film then goes on to portray various stupid rulers, collective opium addiction, visits by Stalin, Churchill (‘You really have big oil wells’) and Roosevelt, the fall of the Shah and the explosive growth of the metropolis with all of its magnificent transportation problems. Well worth watching (apparently there will be a DVD release by the Jan Vrijman Fund later this year or early next year)
While traveling through Iran there are very little signs of the looming crisis over Iran’s alleged nuclear arms programme. There are a couple of down-with-the-U.S.A murals and posters here and there (but i believe they have been all over the place since 1978) and there is a fairly large number of anti-aircraft guns and rockets sticking out of the desert around the nuclear facility at Natanz. More interesting however is the fact that on a beautiful autumn day there are lots of Iranian families picnicking right in the shadow of the AA-guns, on the lawn in front of the facility (it appeared to me that the lawn was there for exactly of that reason).
Popular defiance to the threats of an attack in response to the alleged nuclear arms programme does not stop here: There is a brand (Anata/Jet) chocolate bars on sale in iran that depicts both a photograph of a F-15E Strike Eagle (on the box) and a drawing of a F-16 Fighting Falcon (on the wrapper):
It is kind of remarkable (and maybe a good indication of the schizophrenic split between the official anti-americanism/imperialism and the popular fascination with the American way of life) that one can market candy bars with the same planes on them that the US (and Israel for that matter as the the F-15/F-16 combination makes up the entire long range strike force of the IAF) will use to bomb the shit out of Iran, should they ever decide to attack Iran.
Is it just me or isn’t it at least a tiny little bit ironic that there are direct flight’s between two airports that are named after the founder of the secular Turkish republic (the first and as far as i know only secular muslim majority country) and the leader of the Islamic Revolution that lead to the establishment of Islamic Republic of Iran. There are hardly two men who’s politics could be more opposed to each other (at least when it comes to the relationship between state and religion in the 20th Century). It appears that globalization and the associated travel patterns of the 21st century conveniently ignore such matters and integrate them in their highly codified languages:
… we are approaching Imam Khomeini International Airport, please bring your seatback in the upright position, fold away your tray-table, switch off all electronic devices, put on your headscarf and finish your last drink.
… so i am back from Iran after having spend the last two days in Tehran. it is pretty much difficult to make sense of Teheran in 4 days, which is probably due to the sheer size of the place. there are about 14 million people living in the metropolitan area of Tehran and one would guess that at most 5 of them are working as city planners. On the other hand every second inhabitant has at least one car (either a pre-historic Paykan or a grey Peugeot 206) which, during rush hour, is too much for the extensive highway system to absorb.
The metropolis of Tehran enjoys a huge network of highways (280 km) and of interchanges, ramps & loops (180km). In 2007 there were 130 kilometers of highways and 120 kilometers of ramps and loops under construction. [source: wikipedia]
Highways or not, during rush hour it takes at least 90 minutes to get from the southern end of the city center to the northern end of the city center. unfortunately public transport does not really offer a viable alternative
In 2001 a metro system that had been in planning since the 1970s opened the first two of seven envisaged lines. Work has been slow and coverage remains very limited. Development of the Tehran metro system had been interrupted by the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Problems arising from the late completion of the metro led to buses taking on the role of the metro lines, serving mainly long distance routes. Taxis filled the void for local journeys. The taxis only drive on main avenues, and only within the local area, so it may be necessary to take several taxis to get to one’s final destination. [source: wikipedia]
The only for of transport that will get you from A to B fairly efficiently (and cheaply, a cross town ride is less than €1) are motorcycle taxis. They are a bit difficult to spot (as they are just regular motorcycles cruising the streets) but once you have managed to spot them they make the city much more accessible. Of course it helps to have a bit of a death-whish (the driver has a helmet and you don’t and they will go pretty fast on stretches of highway where the traffic is relatively light) but then it is actually really good fun…
After being in Iran for a week one of the biggest dissapointments so far (right after the food, which is the most unimaginative i have come across so far) is the fact that they seem to have banned ghalyun smoking in most places outside of Teheran. If you belive the daily star (which of course would be a foolish thing to do) this is part of the ‘toughest moral crackdown in years’ which is otherwise fairly invisible (at least to my eyes).
When we were looking for a tea house to have a smoke in Isfahan a couple of days ago we actually got a slightly different explanation: It seems like the governemnt (or the ayatollahs, or whoever runs this country) decided that young girls where smoking too much, to the extend of becoming addicted to smoking ghalyun/argileh (I have heard this concern in other middle eastern countries before). Therefore the wise rulers decided to ban women from smoking in tea houses which seems to have resulted in the girls rightfully pointing out that it was unfair that men were continued to be allowed to smoke in the tea houses. This in turn seems to have resulted in the tea houses being closed altogether (apart from Tehran), and now eveybody smokes at home or in the park or whereever one decides to have a picknic (which seems to be one of the favorite passtimes of the locals here, as long the picnic place is less than ten meters away from a mayor highway and less than 1 meter away form their own car)
This whole situation severly limits your options to pass time in the evening, which now basically consist of eating (unimaginative) or drinking tea and reading (which is actually a fairly relaxing way to spend a vacation).