Jafar Panahi's new film raises fear and guilt
April 2, 2004
It is Wednesday night and I am sitting in front
of my therapist, in Northern California. She tells me: "I
think the key to getting to the root cause of your problems is
to know about your past, especially your life in Iran. Tell me...
how was it?"
"I don't know, I am not sure what should I tell
you? It was what it was, a life."
Fast forward to the Friday night we are in a movie
theater watching Jafar Panahi's "Crimson
Gold", an Iranian tale of life. The
story of Hossein, a pizza delivery man,
who is a veteran still suffering from the wounds of war, living in
the oppressed land I used to call home and will never let go
The movie follows Hossein in his daily life, numb
from medication, unable to react well to the world, but is
as human as anybody else can be. He is in love
and has a fiancé, for whom he buys a white purse because her brother
told him she likes "a bride's purse". He wants to buy her jewlery
but is humiliated by an arrogant jewelry store owner who treats him as a low-life
who should be shopping in the downtown bazaar, not uptown Tehran.
One evening when Hossein goes to deliver pizza
to a home in a well to do area of Tehran, he is caught by surprise;
the the vice squad is outside arresting those leaving
a loud party on the second floor. There standing is a 15-years
old solider staring at the window where he can
see the shadow of people dancing. "I
will stop them with my gun, if they try to run away," he
Hossein isn't allowed to deliver the pizzas;
the vice commander thinks the party goers might find out about
the trap outside. "At
least they are having fun up there, what about me and you?" Hossein
says to the boy soldier. Then in true Iranian fashion he takes
out the pies from the delivery box and offers "pizzas from
the sky" to
the squad, and the worried families outside.
I wish my therapist was there watching the movie
with me. I was one of those young girls coming out of a simple
party. I was held captive by the same poor soldiers waiting for
us outside until early hours of the morning, hungry, and thirsty.
chance, Hossein spends his last night in a luxury penthouse owned
by the rich parents of a disoriented young man visiting from
the U.S. He takes a swim in a fancy indoor pool
drunk and burping over
a magnificent view of Tehran.
Meanwhile in a nice spring afternoon in
Northern California's wealthiest city, this Iranian girl with
a job in corporate America
goes to spare some dollars in support of an Iranian movie.
She went through the same humiliation for having
some innocent fun at a party. She finally found a way out --
maybe because she was born into privilege -- but left those soldiers
and Hossein back in Iran stuck in the tangle of life.
In the next session she may tell her therapist
what it was like to live in Iran: "Contradiction, paradox,
She will tell her: "I had all the fun,
Hossein and a poor 15-year-old country boy were stuck down there forever."
She may even ask her to help her get rid of her