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Blackboards (2000)

Takhté siah (original title)
Itinerant Kurdish teachers, carrying blackboards on their backs, look for students in the hills and villages of Iran, near the Iraqi border during the Iran-Iraq war. Said falls in with a ... See full summary »

Director:

3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview:
Said Mohamadi ...
Said
...
Halaleh
...
Reeboir
Mohamad Karim Rahmati ...
Father
Rafat Moradi ...
Ribvar
Mayas Rostami ...
Young boy storyteller
Saman Akbari ...
Group leader
Ahmad Bahrami ...
Marriage registrar
Mohamad Moradi ...
Match maker
Karim Moradi ...
Old man
Hassan Mohamadi ...
Child
Rasool Mohamadi ...
The boy porter
Somaye Veisee ...
Little girl
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Storyline

Itinerant Kurdish teachers, carrying blackboards on their backs, look for students in the hills and villages of Iran, near the Iraqi border during the Iran-Iraq war. Said falls in with a group of old men looking for their bombed-out village; he offers to guide them, and takes as his wife Halaleh, the clan's lone woman, a widow with a young son. Reeboir attaches himself to a dozen pre-teen boys weighed down by contraband they carry across the border; they're mules, always on the move. Said and Reeboir try to teach as their potential students keep walking. Danger is close; armed soldiers patrol the skies, the roads, and the border. Is there a role for a teacher? Is there hope? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

1 September 2000 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Blackboards  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$3,417 (USA) (6 December 2002)

Gross:

$3,417 (USA) (6 December 2002)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Halaleh: [to Said] My heart is like a train. At every station, someone gets on or off. But there is someone who never gets off. My son.
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Connections

Featured in How Samira Made the Blackboards (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A brave, ambitious work.
2 April 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

'Blackboards' is one of those films that has divided audiences between fanatical admirers and grumbling dissenters. The former admire the director's skilful juggling between formalism and humanism, individual quests and social movements, private moments and public set-pieces; her filming of landscape; her eliciting of unsentimental, compelling performances from an amateur cast; her insistence on enigma and loose ends; her portrait of life in extreme, harrowing conditions. The dissenters bemoan her fudging of politics - sure, she shows the exploitation of children, the mass displacement of the Kurds, and the murderous terror lurking behind every rock, but by refusing to put these in a contextual framework, such depictions are blunted in political force.

there is a whiff of misogyny to me in these complaints. It's okay for men to make ambitious, universalising statements, but women must remain concerned with the local. Presumably Makhmalbaf would have been more political if she had concentrated on authenticating the patterns on the women's dresses. Of course, culture in general has moved towards the local: with post-modernism, very few artists have had the confidence to think on a large scale (I don't mean make large-scale films, which any fule kan do).

This is presumably why 'Blackboards' reminds me of older types of artists. Most immediately, it could be a massive Beckett play, full of wandering vagrants in a vast, desolate landscape, peopled with Lucky-like slaves, surrounded by an unseen, God-like menace, occasionally erupting in capricious violence. Like Beckett, there is no real beginning or end, no context, just a sense of never-ending repetition with the only possible relief in death.

Like Beckett (eg 'Waiting for Godot'), culture has no place in such an environment, indeed, seems a grotesque irrelevance, an incomprehensible babble, traces scraped in a landscape no-one can read now, never mind in the future. And yes, the film is as unremittingly hopeless as a Beckett play - there is no progress or redemption here. But it is as bleakly funny too - eg the whole marriage farrago between Said and Hahaleh; the game of marbles watched by her son; the tragicomic, very Beckettian inability of her aged father to relieve himself.

In the film world, 'Blackboards' reminds me of no-one so much as Angelopolous, especially in a film like 'The Travelling players', where a group of itinerant outsiders observe and become absorbed in an unfamiliar community. Makhmalbaf has Angelopolous' confidence in allegory, a way of dramatising in mythic form life and displacement under a totalitarian regime, without in any way 'abstracting' the violence and pain.

The empty landscapes suddenly being inexplicably over-run by faceless crowds also has the millenarial feel of Andersen's recent 'Songs from the second floor', or later Bunuel, from whom the theme of the journey, coming across strange, surreal strangers (eg the uncanny scene with the masked gardener whose son languishes in an Iraqi jail), or images such as the blackboard-hauling men like grounded birds watching blackbirds in the sky, and overhearing another, ominous, unseen flying object, derives. There are many, many ways of being political.

Unlike these masters, however, who prefer irony and distant tableaux, Makhmalbaf, through restless handheld camerawork, gets right in between her characters and makes us feel for them.


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