A precursor to his better known Homework, this film is both more ambivalent and more defined. Kiarostami spends most of the film in the office of Mohammad Dadres, the principal of an elementary school for boys in a low-income Tehran neighborhood. In between segments of Dadres meting out punishment to those who step out of line, he leads the students like soldiers in “the ranks” for calisthenics, announcements and occasional playfulness. With an apparently hidden camera, Kiarostami records the complicated reactions and explanations of the young offenders and Dadres’ judgements and lectures. Though his is by no means a cruel reign, it is the relentless accumulation of minor infractions and panicked students coolly documented by Kiarostami that points to larger, more disconcerting issues within the family and society.
Kiarostami’s early educational films convey practical knowledge to children with lovely, simply framed camerawork, amusing animations, deadpan comedy and unpredictable asides. Amid the joyfully graphic patterns, repetitions and funny contrasts, Kiarostami includes earnest moral messages for the young ones, urging respectfulness, safety, kindness and good hygiene—appealing to children’s imaginations and sense of adventure while toying with the magic of cinema and exciting, electronic soundtracks.