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Salar Abdoh; Iran as Cinema

.Pretense, reality, acting, documenting, engaging in the creative act despite enormous odds-these, yet again, are themes to another forty-five-minute-long Iranian documentary that was shown at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan. The Trial is about the people of the village of Khosro, who, for ten years, lived, above all, for one thing: to make wholly fictitious, thriller-inspired movies that were nevertheless based on their own lives and the characters in their village. Equipped with their 8mm camera, an indefatigable village director who put in twelve-hour shifts at the local brick making factory to support his family, and a crew of cinema-loving peasants who rode donkeys or each other's backs when they needed to shoot down-angle scenes, the people of Khosro village churned out one amateur film after another, year after year, for their own consumption-until the authorities found out about it and arrested the entire crew for not having permission to shoot movies. Only after three months in solitary confinement and a promise that he would no longer make films was the brick maker-director freed to go back to his family. That is when the director of The Trial, Moslem Mansouri, caught up with him and the people of Khosro and asked all of them to make one last film while he and his own crew recorded them doing it. The villagers agreed, knowing full well the chance they were taking.
Fiction could never compete with the people of Khosro, who are in love with the fictions of their own making. They literally will their last 8mm film into becoming. And the result is a documentary for the ages, encapsulating in one sentence everything that is Iranian cinema: toward the end, talking into the camera, one of the villagers puts it like this: "We may be arrested again for shooting film, but it doesn't matter. We are already hanging from the gallows of cinema." Cut.