Nature in its impersonal vastness and, oddly enough, carpet weaving are fascinating companions in the visually enchanting "Gabbeh," a new romantic fantasy from Iran. Using weaving as a metaphor, the film looks at human longing and connections between generations in a nomadic tribe on the steppes of Asia.
Films of any kind from Iran are rare here. In Iran itself, a struggling government-run film industry is subject to censorship and Islamic law. "Gabbeh," opening today at Embarcadero Center Cinema and the UC Theatre at Berkeley, was made by Mohsen Makhmalbaf ("The Peddler"), one of Iran's most respected directors. But the film, after its script was originally given official sanction, was later inexplicably banned.
The term "gabbeh" refers to a type of carpet whose images tell a story -- a family's joys, the heroic deeds of a young man, or, as in the case of "Gabbeh," a romance in which a young woman is destined by love (or death) to be swept away.
Makhmalbaf initially was to make a documentary about the weaving of the Ghashghai tribe in southeastern Iran, a place of formidable open spaces, moody skies and extremes of weather. But he was struck by how the craft and its visual poetry were inseparable from the rich human experiences of the weavers.
Perhaps the way "Gabbeh" leaps from documentary to the dreamy fantasy of a young woman (Shaghayegh Djodat) longing for a mysterious horseman to carry her away took the movie far from the original idea that officials had approved.
Not all of Makhmalbaf's efforts to synthesize weaving and an evocative story (with some hokey special effects) are successful. But the photography is fresh and lovely. Frequently the camera draws back to show arid mountains, a shimmering lake, grasslands, grazing livestock -- and by contrast, the tiny imprint of humans, except in the beautiful carpets through which they eloquently express their history.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf is known as one of the most influential filmmakers and founders of the new wave of Iranian cinema in the world today. Many of his films like Salam Cinema, A Moment Of Innocence, Gabbeh, Kandahar and The President has been widely well received across the globe and has brought him over 50 international awards from the prestigious film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Locarno… His film Kandahar has been chosen as one of the top 100 best movies of history of cinema by Times Magazine.
His fame as the most prominent filmmaker of Iran made him the subject of an identity theft by someone who wished to become a filmmaker. This incident turned to a famous film called Close up by Abbas Kiarostami.
Makhmalbaf has also thought his three children about the art of cinema. His older daughter Samira holds the record for the youngest filmmaker who have been selected for the official section of Cannes at the age of 17 with her first debut titled The Apple. Samira has also won the Grand Jury Prize of Cannes twice with her second and and third film titled The Blackboards and At Five In The Afternoon. Hana, Makhmalbaf’s younger daughter, won the Crystal Bear of Berlin and the Grand Jury Prize of San Sebastian Film Festival with her first feature film.
At the age of 17 as a political activist Mohsen was shot by the police and spent 5 years in political prison. His fight and human right activities against dictatorship in Iran has continued till today.
With his film Afghan Alphabet he managed to change a law in Iran which resulted in opening the door of schools and universities for education of over half million Afghan children refugee in his country.
Makhmalbaf, the prestigious Manhae Peace Award winner, had also established his own NGO in Iran in which he executed 82 different human right projects for helping women and children of Afghanistan.Since 2009, all 40 films of Makhmalbaf family alongside Mohsen’s 30 published book are banned in his homeland. The Iranian government has also levied a ban on Makhmalbaf’s name in the media. In 2013, the Iranian government also removed over 120 international awards of Makhmalbaf family from the museum of cinema in Iran.