1. Haji Agha actore cinema / Haji Agha, the Cinema Actor (Ovanes Ohanian, 1933, Iran)
2. Avodah / Work (Helmar Lerski, 1935, Palestine)
3. Adamah / Tomorrow's a Wonderful Day (Helmar Lerski, 1947. Israel/Palestine)
4. Dananir (Ahmed Badrakhan, 1940, Egypt)
5. Afrita hanem / Lady Afrita / Little Miss Devil (Henry Barakat, 1949, Egypt)
6. Darb al-mahabil / Fool's Alley (Tewfik Saleh, 1955, Egypt)
7. Zi'ab la ta'kol al lahm / Kuwait Connection (Samir E. Khouri, 1973, Egypt)
8. Giv'a 24 Eina Ona / Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (Thorold Dickinson, 1955, Israel)
9. Two short films from 1983 38+28=66 minutes
a) The Great Sadness of Zohara (Nina Menkes, 1983, Israel)
b)Harb Aala el Harb (Maroun Bagdadi, 1983, Lebanon)
10. Sukka banat / Caramel (Nadine Labaki, 2007, France/Lebanon)
11. Three shorts, 25+15+20= 60 minutes, all from Iran
a) P mesle Pelican / P is for Pelican (Parviz Kimiavi, 1972)
b) Malek Khorshid / The Sun King (Ali Akbar Sadeghi, 1975)
c) Jaam-e Hasanlou / The Hassanlou Chalice (Mohammad Reza Aslani, 1964)
12. Eskiya (Yavuz Turgul, 1996, Turkey)
13. Al-makhdu'un / The Dupes (Tewfik Saleh, 1972, Syria)
14. Tales of an Island (Rakshan Banietemad/Mohsen Makhmalbaf/Dariush Mehrjui, 2000, Iran)
15. Stardust Stricken - Mohsen Makhmalbaf: A Portrait (Houshang Golmakani, 1996, Iran)
16. Chronicle of a Disappearance (Elia Suleiman, 1996, Palestine/Israel/USA/Germany/France)
17. Offside (Jafar Panahi, 2006, Iran)
18. Kasaba / The Town (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 1997, Turkey)
19. Raghs dar ghobar / Dancing in the Dust (Asghar Farhadi, 2003, Iran)
20. Kadin düsmani / Woman Despiser (Ilhan Engin, 1967, Turkey)
21. Alefbay-e afghan / Afghan Alphabet (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2002, Iran)
22. Darbareye Elly / About Elly (Asghar Farhadi, 2009, Iran)
23. Ha-Shoter Azulai / The Policeman (Ephraim Kishon, 1971, Israel)
24. Gavaznha / The Deer (Masud Kimiai, 1974, Iran)
25. Hudutlarin Kanunu / Law of the Border (Lütfi Akad, 1966, Turkey)
26. Az Iran, yek jodaee / From Iran, A Separation (Kourosh Ataee/Azadeh Moussavi, 2013, Iran)
27. Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005, Palestine/France/Germany/Netherlands/Israel)
28. Chaharshanbe-soori / Fireworks Wednesday (Asghar Farhadi, 2006, Iran)
29. Buda as sharm foru rikht / Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (Hana Makhmalbaf, 2007, Iran/France)
30. Uzak / Distant
(Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2002, Turkey
A middle-aged man, a successful photographer with a large apartment and a sea view in Istanbul, gets a visit from his somewhat younger cousin, denizen of a poor village, not so well-off, not so educated, come to stay while he looks for a job in the big city. Mahmut, the photographer, is rather neat, perhaps somewhat prissy, only smokes in the kitchen, is divorced but clearly still carries a torch for his ex, and has pretenses of being a Tarkovsky-loving intellectual; Yusuf, the cousin, is more a slob, seems to have no pretenses of anything except wandering around and making half-hearted attempts to chase women. An odd-couple situation for sure but the key is in the title, as both men start out distant from both each other and the world, and become if anything even more so over the course of the film. I'm still coming to grips with Ceylan's particular style of "slow cinema" but this is definitely the closest he's come to convincing me of his greatness (not that he needs to, who am I?). It's absolutely beautiful - I've always thought Istanbul was an interesting city and this shows off some of it's age, it's size, it's loneliness, and above all it's relationship with the sea - Yusuf is trying to get a job on a boat, and Mahmut has that sea view from his balcony. It's a sad film about how people have so much trouble connecting, but it also never fails to show us that these two guys aren't exactly making much effort to learn from or understand each other or their places in the world.
31. The Delta Force
(Menahem Golan, 1986, USA/Israel
A passenger plane is hijacked by totally evil and swarthy Mooslim terrorists on it's way from Athens to New York, diverted to Beirut, then Algiers, then back to Beirut, with various passengers (most importantly, three American servicemen and a half-dozen Jewish Americans) taken off and hidden at secret locations held by huge groups of Bad Men in Beirut. The Delta Force led by Lee Marvin (sadly, in his last film role) and Chuck Norris is dispatched to stop them and free the hostages; clearly this is a job for 'mericans, what do the Israelis know about this stuff? Result? CHUCK NORRIS AND LEE MARVIN KILL ALL THE TERRORISTS IN BEIRUT, MOSTLY WITH MOTORCYCLE-MOUNTED ROCKETS!!!!!!
32. Ehky ya Scheherazade / Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story
(Yusri Nasrullah, 2009, Egypt
33. 678 / Cairo 678
(Mohamed Diab, 2010, Egypt
I really didn't know too much about either of these going in, except that they were both broadly about women's rights in modern Egypt, so it's rather interesting that they ended up being very similar in many respects, and would make a great (if rather angry and perhaps depressing) double feature. I watched them a couple of days apart which might have been the best way to go. Both are about women - four in the first film, three in the second - dealing with harassment and discrimination in modern Cairo; both have as a central figure a 30ish, beautiful, and wealthy woman - Muna Zaki in the first, Nelly Karim in the second, who is something of a media figure, and both show characters from several walks of life, from the conservative, pious and veil-wearing women of the working class to more middle-class, semi-liberated women to the central characters who find out that they are not above being mistreated, not isolated from misogyny by their money, beauty or more western values.
tells the story of TV host Hebba (Zaki), glamorous, married to an up-and-coming journalist who is trying to get a promotion. Hebba interviews women on her show and is on the verge of getting in trouble with censors, and risking her husband's career, by dealing too much with "politics" but as we see in the three stories of women that she interviews - and in her own life - politics affects everything in Egyptian society. A middle-aged woman from the upper class who has remained alone because the men she meets are all scumbags of one kind or another; a veil-wearing shop-owner whose murder of an employee surely came about in large part because of his feelings of entitlement over his female bosses; a woman from a wealthy family, an educated professional, taken advantage of by her scam-artist husband through the piety of her family and it's attitude towards marriage law. And finally Hebba herself, whose husband blames her forthrightness for his failures in the blunt and enraging finish.
tells three stories, in a rather oblique and fragmented way at first, with small parts of the lives of our three main characters - well-off and westernized Seba (Nelly Karim), a jewelry maker who is now teaching self-defense courses for women that are broadcast on TV; traditional veil-wearing Fayzah who is dealing with being harassed on the bus everyday as she goes to work and a husband who isn't very supportive; and Essam, from a middle-class family with some money, wanting to marry and dealing with an assault that threatens her life, family, and eventually the whole legal system in the country. When the stories all come together we learn that Seba's self-defense class has inspired both Fayzah and Essam into action, and soon we meet a fourth major character, a police detective whose own conflicts with women's status and rights will influence the outcome for all of them.
Both films are inspiring, angry and intense and both are excellent in their own somewhat different ways. I loved the photography and design of Scheherazade
, and while it's significantly longer it doesn't feel it to me, and I probably liked the story of the central figure a little more - or I bought her as a character more, perhaps; though I should point out that both films are based to a certain extent on real stories and people. The editing in 678
is quite brilliant and Bushra's performance as Fayzah might be the best in either film, and I loved how the policeman character was used, though his transformation is a little obvious and feels rather Hollywood, as does the ending to the film. And the early-digital photography and a fair amount of shaky-cam (mostly early in the film) cut the appeal somewhat - though not that much. All in all I'd say I marginally prefer Scheherazade
but both are excellent and both seem to me essential feminist documents - from male directors - of the present day patriarchy, still alive and well unfortunately in most of the world.
34. Tabiate bijan / Still Life
(Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1974, Iran
I saw Saless' first feature, the same year's Yek Etefagh sadeh
, a couple of years ago, and while impressed with the Ozu-like serenity and austerity of the camerawork, didn't quite "get it" in the sense that it didn't strike me as all that remarkable in relation to the rest of Iranian cinema as I knew it. Amir Naderi's short Entezar
, also from 1974, struck me as a much more powerful and concise depiction of similar material. So I approached this one with a little caution - and I also remember that this film was listed as the greatest Iranian film on a list that was current back in the 90s, when I was first discovering this cinema (can't find the list now of course). And for the first half or so of the film - about a 70ish man who operates a railroad crossing (cranking the gate by hand!) in some remote area and living a very simple life with his similarly-aged wife, a carpet weaver, in a one room house steps from the train tracks - I was feeling much the same as I did about the previous film; good, beautiful, poetic, but maybe not great. Something changed though and both the beauty and sadness of this man's existence started to power over me, and in the last 10-15 minutes, when he journeys to town to find out why he's being discharged, it overwhelmed. Ultimately one of the great films about 19th-century rural, uneducated man left behind by the wheels of 20th century progress, and told with little anger or obvious political agenda. This could be any man and woman, anywhere where the world marches on and doesn't notice who it's leaving behind.
35. Bikur Ha-Tizmoret / The Band's Visit
(Eran Kolirin, 2007, Israel
Exactly what I expected it to be, though perhaps just a bit better. A band from Alexandria, Egypt that plays traditional Arabic music is in Israel to play as part of a cultural exchange program, gets stuck in a really crummy little town seemingly built entirely in the ugly concrete block architecture that I usually associate with Eastern Europe in the postwar era, and has to spend the night in the company of several of the townspeople before moving on the next day. The eight members of the band - most middle-aged or older - get put up with different people, and most of the story revolves around the band's leader (Sasson Gabai) and his conversations - and perhaps the most tentative steps towards romance - with the owner of a small cafe (Ronit Elkabetz). It's a nice, sweet little film about people trying to connect and about the power of music to bring people together, and there's not a whole lot here that most won't have seen before, but the performances of Gabai and especially Elkabetz - one of my absolute favorite actresses, gone sadly too soon - definitely kick it up a notch.