Tehran Has No More Pomegranates!
by Houshang Golmakani
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates!
Director: Massoud Bakhshi
Iran, 2008; Running Time: 68 m.
The public screening of Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! is a rare but otherwise auspicious development that takes place once in every few years and only in Tehran. The last time an Iranian documentary was on the public screens was in the winter of 2002 (Our Times, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad). In the year before, that Abbas Kiarostami's ABC Africa was screened. (Foreign documentaries like the ones made by Michael Moore are usually screened because of non-cinematic reasons). This is no strange development. There is a shortage of movie theaters to screen feature films. So, perhaps even those who make documentaries know it is highly unlikely that their films would go on public screens. The most they would expect is the opportunity to show their films at two or three small movie houses and a bit of official support for their films, which is really not too much to expect. However, the television is more expected to support documentary cinema. In spite of all the energy and talent that is dedicated to making these films, the filmmakers have either to rely on foreign resources and be prepared for al sorts of accusations and negative consequences, or to resort to domestic non-cinematic resources to keep their profession going. It is still not clear if Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! would have gone on pubic screens if it did not have two governmental producers. Even this opportunity for screening has been postponed several years; but whatever the reason, it is a good thing because in spite of having state producers, the film has the characteristics that make it good for public screening.
It is the same characteristics that show why the Iranian documentaries have little potentials for pubic screening. For most our documentary filmmakers, the subject is more important than structure and attraction for mass audiences. It is not necessary and essential that a documentary film should aim at mass audiences as this is only possible in rare cases, because people like stories. Even the limited audience that loves documentaries should be offered something attractive. They do not need to watch films devoid of attraction and with an ordinary structure. Every filmmaker can cling onto a separate factor for attraction depending on his or her own taste. One film may become attractive by having a celebrity as its narrator, like An Inconvenient Truth that had Al Gore as its narrator. Films such as Microcosmos and Winged Migration become attractive thanks to their fascinating techniques that also give rise to philosophical and aesthetical interpretations. One of the most absorbing ways of making a documentary film attractive is the use of satire. The extent to which it is going to be used would directly depend on the filmmaker's taste and spirit and the film's subject. This could vary from a delicate satire to a thick irony that exists in Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! where it comprises the whole body of the film. Satire, no matter how little or how much, is necessary for life, let alone documentary filmmaking. Without it, everything is devoid of spirit. One example is the filmmaking of Mehrdad Oskui: technically well-made, rich in research and acceptable from the viewpoint of structure; yet without any sense of humor. His film, Iranian Nose, is about the increasing interest of the Iranian women in nose job. There are so many potentials for humor in this subject, but the outcome is a professional film which complies with scientific research and standards while ignoring potentials that could have made it a pleasant and enduring documentary.
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