Yaaba unfolds in the spectacular landscapes of rural Burkina Faso in a mythical time when peasant life was still unspoiled by colonialism. It is the story of a friendship between Bila, Nopoko and an old woman shunned as a witch by the rest of the community. Unafraid of her, twelve-year old Bila calls her “Yaaba” (grandmother) and learns the value of intolerance and his own worth as a human being. Ouédraogo, who shot the film in his own village, said that it was “based on tales of my childhood and on that kind of bedtime storytelling we hear just before falling asleep.”
Gengobe Satsuma, an exiled samurai cast out as an Asano clan retainer is given a second chance to join his brothers in arms to become the 48th Ronin against the Shogunate. His faithful servant gathers the 100 ryo required for his acceptance. Gengobe is also in love with a greedy geisha named Koman. About to be sold to another man, Gengobe learns that for him to keep her, her debt is exactly 100 ryo.
Werckmeister Harmonies, Béla Tarr’s transfixing follow-up to his seven-hour epic Satantango, is one of the Hungarian auteur’s signature achievements and a benchmark work of contemporary art cinema. Based, like Satantango, on a novel by László Krasznahorkai, the film is set in a dreary, wintry East European village, where the arrival of a strange travelling circus, and a sinister zealot known as The Prince, unleashes destructive forces that plunge the community into madness, murder, and revolution.
The Season of Men is the second feature film by Moufida Tlatli, one of the most important woman filmmakers in the Arab world. The film examines the changing roles of women of two different generations in a society torn between secularism and sharia, and their states of being a woman. Set on Djerba Island, where women live with their children and only see their husbands who work in Tunisia for one month a year, the film takes place in a feminine world away from men. With its delicately woven story, epic narrative, powerful cinematography and characters, The Season of Men is a touching and delightful film about women who want to live as they wish, and not according to the rules of society.
As a renowned author, Mahmoud feels pressure to compose his next great novel, but he is suffering from writer’s block. He harkens back to a happier time when he was a shy, awkward 11-year-old on his family’s lush estate in Tehran. He recalls his 14-year-old cousin, a tomboy who is nonetheless a ravishing beauty. She revels in the power that she has over him. That adolescent girl of long ago—or the memory of her—becomes the muse that inspires him.
This highly symbolic Iranian drama (shot in black-and-white) revolves around the most important figure in a remote rural village. That figure is the village’s sole cow, owned by Mashdi Hassan. The beginning of the film makes clear just how vital the cow is to the life of the village and how much Mashdi and his neighbors cherish it. When the cow is threatened and then killed by members of a nearby clan, Mashdi becomes so distraught that he is gradually transformed into a cow himself. One highlight of this film is the glimpse it offers into a style of rural life which has gone unchanged for thousands of years.
Leila is a kind-hearted and loving woman whose marriage to Reza starts off happily. But when she learns that she is infertile, her life changes rapidly. Devastated by the news, Leila finds herself under growing pressure from Reza’s mother to let him take a second wife to bear his children, and what follows is a profound psychological study of a woman swept away on a complex emotional journey. Led by two wonderful performances by Leila Hatami (Leila) and Jamileh Sheikhi as Reza’s manipulative mother, this is a powerful and thought-provoking drama that doesn’t disappoint.
Dariush Mehrjui’s Hamoun is a psychological comedy/drama about a bumbling Iranian intellectual, Hamid Hamoun. Trying and failing to complete a philosophical tract on love, Hamoun cannot seem to convince his wife Mashid, who is a successful artist, to love him either. Hamoun’s refusal to accept reality, or grant Mashid a divorce, is both character study and metaphor for a condition of modern urban life in Iran.