I’ve watched this before, and both times I knew the general idea (documentary footage is being faked, people involved in real events are restaging them for the camera), but I was noticing this time how in some movies Kiarostami never tips his metafictional hand. We know from interviews and DVD extras that the movie theater (and the movie) never existed in Shirin, that the drivers and riders of Ten were never in the car at the same time, and that everyone in Close-Up is performing the role of themselves, but you can’t necessarily tell these things when watching the films.

Farazmand is a reporter who hears about a man (Sabzian) impersonating Mohsen Makhmalbaf, receiving money from a middle-class family while acting like he’s prepping a film shoot. He arranges to get Zabzian arrested for this, after which AK visits the man in jail and records his court date, discussing his intentions in pretending to be a filmmaker.

When Sabzian is interviewed by Kiarostami, realizing AK knows the real Makhmalbaf:

In the commentary, Rosenbaum calls it “a film about impersonation” right as Farazmand is telling the taxi driver and policemen that he aspires to be a famous journalist while he’s clearly unprepared (can’t find the house, not enough cash for the cab, didn’t bring a tape recorder). They discuss how the film is called Close-Up when Kiarostami loves to film in long-shot.

Asking directions from turkey man while looking for the Ahankhah house:

They also discuss the dead time and story distractions, how the film spends time in turn with almost every character.

JR: “Most people would agree that the members of the family come off overall less sympathetically than Sabzian does … they’re more defensive.” His co-commentarian Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa says the rumor is the family originally did not withdraw their complaint against Sabzian, but later agreed to do so for the film. She also says that Sabzian points out that because of Close-Up, the family did in fact get to be in a film as he promised them. Even these experts don’t know whether the filmed trial is real or staged.

The Complainants:

I get the two sons confused, but can you blame me?

JR: Many of Kiarostami’s films from here on are “about the unequal relationship between filmmakers and the people they’re filming who are much poorer and are relatively powerless”.

Two Makhmalbafs:

JR: “I think the real subject of this film … is not impersonation or fraud, it’s the social importance of cinema and how it affects everything – how it affects things socially, how it affects people’s sense of power, their sense of ethics, their sense of identity … and their sense of truth, and perhaps truth is the thing that gets the most severe unpacking in this film.”

Woman returns to Afghanistan to save her suicidal sister, but has trouble finding passage from Iran to Kandahar. Wiki says it’s partly based on true story, and the lead, Nelofer Pazira, played herself – although here she’s called Nafas. She pretends to be part of a large family crossing the border, but they get robbed along the way. She gets a boy called Khak to take her partway, meets an American doctor with a false beard, then tries to follow a wedding party the rest of the way.

Poetic film, sometimes with unconvincing English dialogue but makes up for that with wonderous scenes like the one with guys on crutches racing to catch artificial legs parachuting from above. Makhmalbaf apparently had no trouble finding extras with missing limbs (neither does Jodorowsky). I have a skewed picture of Makhmalbaf – I’ve seen his appearance in Close-Up, a couple of his early documentaries, and a couple by his daughter Samira but this is the first of Mohsen’s features I’ve watched.


Makhmalbaf and his cinematographer, Ebraham Ghafouri, show this desert land as beautiful but remote and forbidding. Roads are tracks from one flat horizon to another. Nafas bounces along in the back of a truck with other women, the burqua amputating her personality.

It’s Iranian Month here – 2005 month flopped, and the 1920’s are just on break. This movie has been on my shelf for four years still in its cellophane, so it was my first pick.


Noqreh (above) lives in the ruins of Afghanistan immediately post-war in 2002 with her father, her brother’s wife, and the wife’s baby. She’s supposedly attending religious school, but secretly changes clothes and attends a progressive regular school when she’s out of sight of her very traditional muslim father. There’s trouble finding water, finding work, and keeping the baby healthy, then busloads of refugees move into the ruins so our crew moves into a crashed airplane.


Meanwhile, Noqreh is being courted by a poet (Razi Mohebi, above on the bike, assistant director of this film and Osama) and having discussions with everyone she sees (including, memorably, a French soldier) about the female president of Pakistan, presidential speeches, and ways that she herself could become president of Afghanistan. The refugees follow her family to the airplane, so they move into an abandoned palace, the most spectacular of their picturesque homes, though it has an oppressive air about it. Then the tragedy starts flying – the father decides they can’t live in such a godless city anymore, so they set off into the desert. On the way, he hears word that his son, the baby’s father has died from a landmine. Then in the desert they encounter a lost soul, a man who does not know where to go, who talks as the father buries the baby who has died from illness. It sounds depressing, and at the end it really is, but it’s a powerfully good movie – beautiful and interesting and moving, and likely shot in actual crashed planes and abandoned palaces while Afghanistan was still a war hotspot.


With writing, editing and production assistance from her father Mohsen and very nice cinematography from Ebrahim Ghafori. Would love to see her other movies.