The Real Iran
A Separation is required viewing
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
March 8-11, RPL Film Theatre
If one were to judge Iran just on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's incendiary rhetoric, news channels' depictions and countless international sanctions, the inescapable conclusion would be that Iran is a rogue nation packed with fundamentalists, ready to bomb Israel or the U.S. at the first opportunity.
At the very least, A Separation puts a dent in that widespread belief. Winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, A Separation is a very intimate drama in which flawed but good people are pitted against each other by chance and common life burdens.
Simin and Nader's marriage is going through a rough patch. Even though they love and respect each other, Simin wants to take their daughter out of the country to give her a better education. Her husband refuses to allow it, but only because he doesn't want to leave his Alzheimer's-ridden father alone.
The impasse translates into a trial separation, which in turn triggers a domino effect of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits in an enlightening snapshot of the Iranian judicial system.
Without openly showing the clash between secular and religious lives, A Separation makes clear that their cohabitation is not easy. The female characters are more independent than one would expect. Simin has a career and ambitions of her own, and hopes her daughter will follow her path. Nader is okay with this, regardless of his unwillingness to leave Teheran. Simin is not depicted as a helpless victim, but someone whose stubbornness gets the better of her. This is rare in films of this nature.
A Separation should be mandatory for anyone who advocates nuking a country, or anybody who judges an entire nation based solely on its leaders. That unusually warm feeling toward Iranians you get from watching this film? It's called empathy. Give it a shot.
Barf And Bullets
In the little-seen Mike Judge movie Idiocracy, the free world is ruled by inept warmongers, the most popular show on TV is called Ow, My Balls and the highest-grossing movie features 90 minutes of farting. In the last couple of weeks, two box-office champions have made Judge's dystopian film look terrifyingly prescient: the disingenuous Act of Valor and the exploitative Project X. The former is basically an Army recruitment film, while the latter is a shameless clone of Superbad minus character development, decent acting or any semblance of a script. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Supposedly a comedy about a house party that spirals out of control, Project X is more sad than funny. The film portrays teenagers as hedonistic freaks (how shockingly original) with boys slobbering like imbeciles as young-looking actresses eagerly take their tops off. One would be hard-pressed to differentiate Project X from a Girls Gone Wild video, except that at least the latter doesn't try to pass as wholesome entertainment. The film's message is awful: popularity is worth property destruction, mortgaging your future and harming your family and friends. There's no real humour and no redemption at the end. A real dud from Todd Phillips (The Hangover).
Act Of Valor
The best thing I can say about Project X is that at least it won't get you killed. That's what Act of Valor is for. A shoot-'em-up movie starring actual marines, Act of Valor follows a hackneyed plot about terrorists and drug dealers smuggling dirty bombs into the country. It's a non-satiric Team America: World Police - every foreigner in the film is either evil or incompetent and military life is the greatest.Act of Valor predictably ends with a call to enlist (that's the aforementioned "getting you killed" part). This is what Inglourious Basterds' Nazi-propaganda film-within-a-film "Stolz Der Nation" would be, if it was shot as a modern production. Vile.