In recent years, I have developed an increasing appreciation for Iranian movies that began after watching the very touching movie باشوغریبه کوچک – Bashu, the Little Stranger for the first time. It was a movie that was like no other Iranian movie I’d seen before. It tells the story of a boy who loses his family in the war in the southern region of Khuzestan and runs away on the back of a truck to a village up north in Gilan, Iran. SinceBashu, I have viewed and enjoyed countless Iranian films. However, for this post I have only selected some of my all time favorites and I paired each with carefully chosen dishes I thought would fit the mood of the film based on the script or the characters. Since it has been an ongoing film awards season and the 2014 Oscars will be on this Sunday, I thought this would be the best time to write about some of my favorite Iranian movies and to match them with delicious recipes. I think it’s fun eating tasty and healthy foods while viewing movies with friends and family at home or at a dine-in theater.
I grew up in a tiny town in Khuzestan and we had no TV set or TV reception. However, there were three small movie theaters scattered about and going to the movies was one of the very few things we did for fun, especially during the hot summertime. My parents would prefer taking us to the movies with them than leaving us home alone. Any films they saw, good or bad, we saw as well. I remember sitting next to my mother watching Fellini’s film, 8 1/2, and being bored out of my mind and totally confused. Of course, there were no movie ratings back then prohibiting kids to watch certain movies. When there was a scary or inappropriate scene in the movie, my mother would cover my eyes or shout چشماتو ببند cheshmato beband (close your eyes). One of the highlights of going to the movies during the summer was eating as we watched the film in the outdoor movie theater. On those nights we would sit in the last row by the exit waiting for our food to arrive, which was usually a platter of kabob koobideh on taftoon bread. I think that was the best part of going to the movies back then.
The following movies are not listed in any particular order. I love every single one of these movies equally and I would highly recommend watching them if you haven’t seen them already. If you have not seen any of the movies please do not read any further as there might be some spoilers. Spoiler alert!
نمای نزدیک – Close-Up
, is a docu-fiction about a man who passes himself as the Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and dupes an unsuspecting family into acting in his new movie at their own home. At the end of the movie I had mixed emotions toward Sabzian (the main character). At first I wanted him to be prosecuted and put behind bars and then at the same time I wanted to take him home, cook him some dinner and listen to his stories. The innate human need of wanting to be respected and recognized got the best of him and he chose a rather deceitful approach toward gaining admiration and acknowledgement. The best scene is when he walks out of the courthouse and meets the real Makhmalbaf. Priceless! Close-Up
was directed and produced by Abbas Kiarostami.
Where is the Friend’s Home? (1987)
خانه دوست کجاست ؟ – Where is the Friend’s Home? This movie is about a boy who gets home from school and finds out that he took his classmate’s notebook home by mistake. He sets out on a mission to try and return his classmate’s book because if his classmate does not hand in his homework on time he will be expelled. This boy’s kindness and empathy seems so genuine and touching throughout the film that you forget this is only a movie. We all need a friend like that! This movie is written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami.
Menu Suggestion: Gozlemeh, Tas kabab, Sabzi Khordan, Borani Esfenaj, Shole zard, Chai and Ajil
Taste of Cherry (1997)
طعم گیلاس – Taste of Cherry is another great film by Abbas Kiarostami. This is an intense story of a man driving around looking for someone to bury him under a tree after he kills himself. I remember after watching this movie I could not stop talking about it for the next few days. It brought out a lot of emotions in me. As much as I love this movie, the superb acting, small conversations, the ending and even all the scenes driving on the dirt roads, I don’t think I’ll be able to watch it again any time soon.
Menu Suggestion: Khoresh Gheymeh, Polow-Rice, Mast o Khiar, Halva and Chai
The White Balloon (1995)
باد کنک سفید – The White Balloon
, is the story of a little girl’s quest to buy goldfish just in time for the Persian New Year – Nowruz. This film was directed by Jafar Panahi and written by Kiarostami. We went to see this movie with another couple and their children and we took our two daughters with us. Soon after we arrived and sat down the movie started. As my full attention became fixated on the big screen, I noticed from the corner of my eyes that my youngest daughter, about 3-4 years old at the time, was running in between the aisles. I jumped and with a lot of – ببخشید – “excuse me’s,” I took a hold of her, grabbed our jackets and went outside on a cold winter day and waited for everyone else to finish watching the movie. About a year later, I got to see the whole movie without interruption. So much for taking kids to the movies like my parents!
Persian New Year Menu Ideas: Sabzi Polow
, Fish (Fried, Smoked or Baked)
, Kookoo Sabzi
, Kookoo Sabzi with Walnuts and barberries
, Reshteh Polow
, Javaher Polow
, Ash Reshteh
, Shirini Nargili
, Sohan Asali
, Nan Berenji
, Fruits and Tea
Sabzi Polow Mahi
Chai o Sohan Asali
Chai o Shirini Nargili
Children of Heaven (1997)
بچه های آسمان – Children of Heaven,
The story of a poverty-stricken family struggling to make ends meet and a boy who loses his sister’s shoes after offering to have it mended at the repair shop. They end up sharing his only pair of worn-out shoes. A very touching human story by the great Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi.
A Separation (2011)
جدایی نادراز سیمین – A Separation,
the story of a complex family drama of broken marriage involving the wife Simin who wants to leave the country, the husband Nader who wants to stay and take care of his elderly father who suffers from dementia, and the only child Termeh caught in the middle of two feuding parents. This movie won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and was made by Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadi.
The Past (2013)
گذشته – The Past
is a French movie made by the Oscar winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. It tells the story of an Iranian man coming back to France after four years to finalize his divorce with his estranged wife. Meanwhile, his soon-to-be ex-wife is in a relationship with a man who has a son and whose wife is in a coma.
Most films that I love seem to have a dramatic story line and are either heartbreaking, sad or tragic with most endings being unclear. However, I would like to conclude this post with مارمولک – The Lizard
which I think is the most hilarious movie ever made and I have watched it many times over. By the way, there’s no menu for مارمولک, you can eat anything your heart desires!
Please check out Pinterest/Iranian Films
for more great movies. Do you watch Iranian movies? Do you enjoy Persian food? What food goes well with your favorite movie?
* All Movie Posters: Wikipedia