Skip to main content


Iran, 1992 (MIFF 1993, Spotlight Iran)

Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Once Upon a Time, Cinema almost defies description, as the complexity and imagi­nation director Makhmalbaf brings to it pro­duces a dazzling visual roilercoaster, which sweeps the viewer along. From the opening shot, we are hypnotised by this film-within-a-film in which characters jump in and out of the screen, time leaps back and forth, and film footage from the whole history of Iranian cine­ma is woven into this mesmerising 'Purple Rose of Tehran'!

A photographer (obviously modelled on Charlie Chaplin) travels Europe to learn about cinematography, which has just been invented. Bringing the new discovery back to Persia, it becomes apparent that this Aladdin's lamp­like magic lantern machine can literally cast a spell on reality. The old Shah, initially an opponent of cinema, falls passionately in love with the heroine of a damsel-in-distress epic (significantly she has long, thick tresses and no headscarf) who, every time she falls off a cliff in the film, ends up in his court. The photogra­pher, initially rewarded with an appointment as filmmaker to the Shah, discovers that even art goes awry, and ends up pitching his next project from the gallows!

Fast-paced, wacky and shot in luminous black and white, Makhmalbaf describes his film as a '1001 nights' of Iranian cinema, and it is his love for a cinema that refuses to sell false dreams that makes his own uproarious, cine­matic fairy tale so memorable. A must for the cineastes.

See also...


Moshen Makhmalbaf's feature films have long followed the Iranian tradition of blurring the line between fact and fiction. His 2001 film, Kandahar, documented one woman's heartbreaking journey through ... More »


Khorshid is a ten year old blind boy who lives alone with his mother. He uses his exceptional hearing to bring extra cash into a needy household that subsists on his mother's fishing. Khorshid ... More »


... ... A ... ... ... According to many observers (your humble servant and Werner Herzog amongst them), cinema is alive and well in two countries: China and Iran. Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Gabbeh is ... More »


... ... Blurring the line between documentary and fiction, Mohsen Makhmalbaf s Salaam Cinema is the Iran director/activist's typically offbeat tribute to a century of cinema. Such is the popularity ... More »


The lyrical and spare storytelling that Makhmalbaf applied in Gabbeh (MIFF 1996) is utilised again to tell another personal story, this time it is the director's own, told from two differ­ent ... More »


Awarded the Rossellini Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, this latest achieve­ment by one of Iran's foremost filmmakers takes us to the aftermath of the devastating 1990 earthquakes in ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director