Blackboards, written by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Samira Makhmalbaf and directed by the latter
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
Blackboards is an extraordinary film.
And it is included on my Best 100 Films list.
Even if, to my surprise, The New York Times has not included it on its list of Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.
Blackboards has won:
- The Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival
- It was the year when the Palme d’Or went to Dancer in the Dark
- But in my view, Blackboards is much better than the Lars von Trier movie
It is the compelling, sad and overwhelming story of itinerant Kurdish teachers that try to find pupils in isolated places.
In other countries, teachers are unwilling to move to the country side and they are offered various incentives to do so.
They are advertising within villages that are situated in the high mountains of Iran, close to the border with Iraq.
As salesman would shout trying to sell ice-cream, melons and other goods, these teachers shout what they know:
- 2 x 2 = 4!
This masterpiece raises all sorts of questions, some of which are asked by the very teachers when they meet potential clients aka pupils:
- Don’t you want to learn to read?
- What is it good for?
Indeed, one answer is sadly – nothing- in war torn provinces, or in destitute areas, where all the locals do is raise animals.
Of course, education is of paramount importance, but when we look at the nomads and their life of starvation, we wonder:
- Do they need lessons or bread?
One of the teachers comes across a group of “mules”, that we know carry drugs in other parts of the world, whereas here, they are used to transport contraband goods across the frontier, considering they are not prosecuted.
But they are shot upon, one is stumbling from the precipice and breaks a leg, but all have a horrible life of toil, from a tender age- most are under ten.
Reeboir, the teacher is making an effort to get them interested:
- Don’t you want to be able to read a book, with stories…or even better, a newspaper?
One of them is retorting that he knows stories and starts telling one wherein a rabbit is captured and then tortured by one of his colleagues.
Said, the other hero of this story and teacher that is nicknamed Blackboard travels for a while with a group of nomads.
They want to reach the border with Iraq, which is also the place of an infamous chemical attack that took place when the countries were at war.
Said offers them lessons, but when he sees there is no taker, he asks for some bread or crust, but he is refused repeatedly.
These people have nothing but pains and trouble that they carry around and they finally agree on a fee for this guiding…
- 40 walnuts…
Said is marrying Halaleh along the way, after an outré ceremony and a talk between man and woman, separated by the blackboard, for they had not known each other and these are conservative travelers.
But it is not working very well, even if it was not a shotgun wedding, albeit it was that quick and deprived of real, deep feelings.
The teacher is trying to give some lessons to his new wife, but she is a more than reluctant audience and does not answer questions.
Therefore, the man is writing bad marks on the blackboard that is now used more a drying object than for learning purposes.
An accident in the other camp, of the “children-mules” makes Reeboir cut his blackboard in half, in order to use one part for the broken leg of a child.
This is a touching, sad and heart breaking film, that tells an overwhelming story of people who have to suffer so much.