When my friend Tom Luddy, renowned as the founder of the Pacific Film Archive and the Telluride Film Festival went to the Fajr Film Festival this year, he called me from Tehran in great excitement. He said there was a film showing about “the woman poet” I loved so much. He meant Forough Farrokhzad.
Tom, through his association with myself and numerous other Iranians has come to know what Forough represents to so many of us. Another luminary of the world of film who was fortunate enough to know Forough and actually spend time with her in Tehran in the 1950's, is the legendary filmmaker Chris Marker who wrote an obituary for her at the time of her death calling her the Queen of Sheba. He wrote to me saying of all the extraordinary women he had been fortunate enough to meet in his life, she was by far the most extraordinary.
Now, an audacious filmmaker, Nasser Saffarian, has spent the last few years, and with very limited resources and borrowed money making a unique documentary about Forough. The film, which was intended to be a trilogy, currently consists of two parts, each about an hour long.
It includes interviews with contemporary poets and friends of Forough's, as well as extensive interviews with her mother, sister and brother. The film also contains the ethereal footage that Bertolucci shot of her in Iran in the 60's, as well as segments of her incredible film
The house is black, the documentary she made at a leper colony.
Mr. Saffarian's efforts are commendable. Iran today is not generally acknowledged as a land encouraging the sort of outspoken iconoclasm that Forough stands for and it is probably only barely that she is tolerated as a cultural figure by the majority of those in power under the current regime.
And yet, for me and so many others, she is, as no other ever was or will be, the true Iranian treasure. She speaks to so many parts of us, in so many ways. For me, seeing this film was a delightful and heady as well as an extremely emotional experience. For that, I am grateful to Mr. Saffarian.
Mr. Saffarian has had many difficulties to contend with. While the film was invited to and is screening as part of the San Francisco Film Festival this week, the filmmaker was denied a visa as a consequence of the current state of the U.S.-Iran relationship.
In Iran itself, the first part of his documentary
(The Green Cold) has received only limited permission for exhibition, while the second part,
Jaam-e-jaan (The Mirror of the Soul) is not allowed to screen at all. Furthermore, Mr. Saffarian is unable to complete the third part, even though it had already begun production, due to a complete and total lack of funds and the burden of debt he already is dealing with.
For those of you in Northern California, I encourage you to try to catch the film at the San Francisco Film Festival. It may be the only time it shows; although, I certainly hope this will not be so. For my part, I am trying, here in Los Angeles, as well as (hopefully) in a few other cities, to arrange one or two fundraisers to allow Mr. Saffarian to finish the last part of the film.