The good neighbor
A film on the life of novelist Ahmad Mahmoud
February 25, 2005
When I received e-mail from my friend at the local Iranian
Society regarding their upcoming event featuring the documentary Ahmad
Mahmoud: A Noble Novelist directed by Bahman Maghsoudlou, I was thrilled.
always when I get excited, I forgot to read the rest of the e-mail.
My mind went
back to when I was about ten years old and I had managed to borrow the book Neighbors from
an older friend so I could be cool by knowing the content since his name was
often brought up
as a brave
As young as I was, I felt the rebelliousness of Bloor Khanoum
in her own way but I also was angry at how she was at the mercy
her husband. I was too young to sort out the emotions I was feeling
I knew one thing for
certain that Ahmad Mahmoud was pro-women. He was my kind of hero.
By this time I was a veteran reader for two years! In my young
and impressionable mind I could spot a man who thought
women were smart, but society
wanted to treat them as second class.
Years later I tried hard to find his books but I was not successful. When the
internet was invented and I began to order books through an Iranian website,
I did not come across Mahmoud's books either.
In my college days, I had seen pictures of Maghsoudlou and read some articles
about his work in cinema which reflected his travels and interviews with
great film personalities in different countries.
I was about 22, and a college graduate, when I saw Maghsoudlou on a
cultural program on Channel 2 in Tehran. The program showed a serious person
who was very knowledgeable and well informed about his craft even though
he did not seem
On Saturday, I had a tight schedule: I was having lunch with an Iranian friend
and rushing to buy evening clothes for the upcoming Noruz party. At about
6:30 I drove back home like a maniac and ran up the stairs so fast I frightened
I had only 5 minutes to change. I got to the university a few minutes
before the program started.
I just said hello to my colleague in charge of the program and took my seat
on the second row. The host gave a small presentation about Bahman Maghsoudlou's ifvc.com and
his accomplishments which were hard to keep track of.
Then I realized
the man with white hair sitting in front of me was the director. I was really
impressed with his few minutes of introduction because to me he had always
been a larger than life figure (and you all know a person has to be damn impressive
for me to even acknowledge him or her).
The opening scene on the documentary evokes a range of emotions. Seeing the great
with the tubes which provide oxygen, makes one feel a great deal of compassion
mischievous look in his eyes immediately fills the heart with warmth and the
real soul comes through. An instant bond is formed. Watching the original house
where the characters from Neighbors were created was beautiful and
Mahmoud talks about his childhood, his difficulties and his inspirations.
He has a
great sense of humor and admits to having respiratory problems yet the cigarette
never leaves his hands. In one scene he smokes, then puts the tube back on and
smiles. The rebellious soul is there for the viewer to see.
Watching the writer walking with his cane among
his immense collection of books (my kind of place) is a great reminder of
read is this writer
who never finished college because he could not afford it.
sincerity comes through the camera. He speaks about the war which
broke out in 1980 and Iraqi's occupation of Abadan/ Khorramshahr. His pain
is evident when he talks about other Iranians mistreating fellow Khuzestanis
in calling them "war-stricken" and even in some instances throwing
hot water at them to discourage them from entering their cities. (To
I have contempt for those cities and have vowed to never spend any money or
visit their unkind people.)
As the documentary reaches its end, it leaves one with a hunger of wanting to
know more about the writer and his personal life. I loved his definition of love
even though he had a traditional marriage to a close relative. I wanted to ask
so many questions.
The film ends with the writer going slowly to his upstairs library as a portion
of Neighbors is
read by him . It beautifully makes the viewer understand that despite the fragile
health and the old body, the heart
is very much filled with love and emotions of a young man longing with
After the film, Maghsoudlou came back on stage and gave a short presentation
about Iranian cinema and his projects, including documenting the lives of great
artists. He also mentioned that the DVD of Ahmad Mahmoud:
A Noble Novelist, will have two additional hours of interviews featuring
personal aspects of the great writer's life.
I was amazed at how approachable and warm Maghsoudlou
was to everyone who
spoke to him. I am always impressed with people I consider "Iranian
they are humble and easy to reach. Maghsoudlou definitely is one of our
treasures and I look forward to reading his two books and seeing the entire documentary
on DVD. I am also grateful for his referral to find the great writer's books
so I can read them now and understand the rich characters and the unique backgrounds
surrounding the stories.
I also recommend seeing Silence of The Sea, a movie by this great
director which I saw a few months ago in an International Film Festival. A great
and very different movie about the Diaspora and identity crisis. The characters
profound and stories reflecting their struggles are