With Hossain Sabzian, Hassan Farazmand, Abolfazi Ahankhah.
Iran, 1990, 35mm, color, 98 min.
Persian and Azerbaijani with English subtitles.
Print source: Janus Films
When Kiarostami ran across a news story about a man going to trial for deceiving a middle-class family by pretending to be celebrated Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, he was not content with simply making a documentary or a fiction film about the case; he did both. In fact, Kiarostami himself becomes part of the story while giving the film and the reality a new, surprising ending. Aside from the famous filmmaker, Hossain Sabzian—the unemployed, impoverished protagonist at the center—also bears certain resemblance to fellow Kiarostami antiheroes, particularly the impassioned, duplicitous boy in The Traveler. In this case, Sabzian’s love of cinema intersects with his desire for respect and admiration, and this blinds him to all other—potentially criminal—concerns. Kiarostami recruits both Sabzian and the family to reenact scenes from the incident and is not only permitted to film the trial, but apparently also collaborated with Sabzian on his affecting words in court. In exploring the hows and whys of this baffling deception, Kiarostami boldly synthesizes cinema and reality, adding revelatory dimensions to both.