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(Review originally written at 29 October 2006)

This is a rather well made movie, that shows some of the problems in Iran that affects its poor northern citizens, without luckily ever getting over-dramatic or too sentimental but at the same time it's also lacking in true depth to make this a powerful or impressive movie.

It's a slow moving movie that is entirely filmed with handhold camera, with lots of long sequences. It works good for a realism and the atmosphere of the whole movie but at the same time means that this is not a movie for just everyone. You must be able to handle the slow- and different way of storytelling to appreciate this movie fully.

The movie is good looking, with its moody, never-ending, landscapes and good camera positions to tell the story with. The dialog is realistic, though not always interesting. I mean they basically say the same things five times in a row in this movie, which perhaps is a bit irritating. This is also due to the non-professional actors that play in this movie. Needless to say that not everything works out fully in this movie, especially when it comes down to the true emotion or depth of the movie. Lucklily there is no lack of realism, although the movie its story pushes it at times. But on the other hand it's the story that still makes this a pleasant movie to watch. The subject might be heavy and serious but luckily the movie doesn't try to emphasis this. The end result is a good and not heavy to watch movie that is absolutely worth seeing but lacking in real emotions or depth to make a true lasting impression.

The movie is told from an original point of view; A couple of schoolteachers that travel trough the North of the country to remote villages and groups of refugees, to teach them the basic things such as writing, reading and simple math, to try and give everyone a better future and at the same time earn some money or get some free food as well. They're mixed up in all the difficulties but yet they're no part of it. If they want they can walk away from all the troubles if they choose to. They're objective in the whole situation and they don't do more than is ever asked of them.

Most of the characters in this movie are being played by non-actors. It works realistic but at the same time is one of the reasons why the movie is lacking in any true depth or well acted out emotions. The movie as a whole is effective and it makes its point well but it does so without ever impressing too much, with the exception of one or two great sequences.

Samira Makhmalbaf has some good and promising potential as a filmmaker and is possible future Oscar potential, just like her father, who also co-wrote this movie but her movies have to become even more confronting and daring if she wants to achieve that.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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