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An shab ke barun amad (The Night It Rained)

Posted by martinteller on December 9, 2012

In a small Iranian village, on a rainy night, a 12-year-old boy noticed the railroad tracks were washed out.  He set his jacket on fire and signaled the oncoming train, sparing it and its passengers from disaster.  Or did he?  In this Rashomon-esque documentary, director Kamran Shirdel interviews the boy, his teacher, fellow villagers, journalists, engineers and government officials.  Everyone has a different story.  The reports vary on what kind of train it was, whether or not there were any passengers to save, how hard it was raining, whether or not the boy could have lit a fire, whether he was responsible for stopping the train, whether he was anywhere near the train, how much of a reward he received, and even if the boy exists.  Some are eager to claim the credit for themselves.

The short film (about 38 minutes) was banned in Iran and cost Shirdel an important position.  And no wonder.  Shirdel uses editing to juxtapose statements and makes it clear that there is not much faith to be had in official reports when no one can agree on the truth.  He doesn’t compel the viewer to come to any particular conclusion on which variation of the story to believe, only to note all the variations that exist.  Some of his methods are a little too blunt and obvious — the constant inserts of the old man who says “It’s all a pack of lies” for example — but in general, it’s humorously effective, and lays the groundwork for future narrative games from the likes of Makhmalbaf and Kiarostami.  Rating: Good (75)

IMDb
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