by M. Faust
On the surface, the 1998 Iranian film The Apple seems almost amateurishly crude. In what initially appears to be documentary footage, a social worker comes to a house where an elderly man and his blind wife have kept their twin daughters, age 12, locked up since birth. The social worker demands that the girls be freed and allowed to play with other children. When they insist on returning to the yard which is the only part of the outside world they know, she pushes them back into the street. Eventually they learn to play with other children, as the social worker locks the father up in his own house and forces him to hacksaw his way through the bars he has installed. The film recounts a true story and features the actual family playing themselves. If you saw Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up at the Buffalo Film Seminar a few months ago, you will already know that this is not an unusual strategy in Iranian films. And you will also be familiar with Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the great Iranian filmmaker who was the subject of that film and who wrote and edited this, the debut of his 17-year-old daughter Samira. (Suspicions that he may have had more to do with The Apple are alleviated by the fact that Samira has made several other excellent films since this one.) What sounds like a depressing story is instead an even-handed display of confusion and resilence, both charming and, in ways you won’t initially suspect, disturbing.
Never released to video in the US, The Apple will be presented in 35mm next Thursday (Feb. 18) at the Market Arcade as part of the International Women’s Film Festival. Also on the bill is the short film “A Vida Politica,” about four Brazilian activists and their innovative ways of bringing hidden issues into the public forum.
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