A semi-autobiographical account of Makmahlbaf's experience as a teenager when, as a 17-year-old, he stabbed a policeman at a protest rally. Two decades later, he tracks down the policeman he injured in an attempt to make amends.
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A forty year old ex-cop goes to Tehran to meet with the director Makmalbaf and act in his latest film. Twenty years ago the director had wounded the policeman with a knife in an attempt to disarm him to take his gun. The filmmaker, who fought against the Shah's regime, was arrested and spent several years in prison. So, today, he proposes to man to reconstruct the story cinematically: each of them will choose a guy to play their roles. The boys chosen take things very seriously and, in the end, will not fight, but rather, will offer one another... the bread and flowers! Written by
As if fellow Iranian director Kiarostami's exemplary intertwining of fact and fiction of a Makhmalbaf real-life story in "Close-Up" weren't enough, Makhmalbaf himself ups the ante of creative filmmaking a few years later: Focus is a moment in his young idealistic life where he stabbed a guard during the Iranian revolution, resulting in several years of jail time for him before he eventually emerged as one of the leading Iranian filmmakers. But it's not just an autobiographical detail he wants to shed light on, Makhmalbaf films a documentary on top of a pseudo-documentary (or is it the other way round?), it's a heavily symbolic re-interpretation of what happened, why and how, a look into an aspect of reality. In the process a transcendence of the actual situation ensues with an almost mythical truth buried in the film's final scene. Makhmalbaf accomplishes the feat by re-enacting said moment with no other than the actual stabbed guard (now out of money), who coaches a young actor to play himself - while the former guard is being filmed by the director doing so. Simultaneously to that Makhmalbaf casts actors meant to portray his own perspective of the events, not without revealing insights, and the whole effort culminates in the filming of that crucial stabbing scene: Welcome to a film in a film, a reality in a reality, a blending of fact and fiction in a most fruitful and enlightening way, social, historical and political commentary included. How much of what ended up on screen was actually planned, is for the viewer to decide, but if you're looking for creative minds Makhmalbaf's use of the medium will keep you enthralled throughout.
"Excuse me, what time is it?" we hear Makhmalbaf's accomplice ask the guard at the end of the film, the air pregnant with suspenseful anticipation of what is going to happen. So, what time is it? It's two decades after the original incident and an Iranian filmmaker has just delivered his masterpiece. And when the moment arrives the picture freezes, saving a moment in time for eternity that could only happen on film. But in a way, it's all real.
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