Wednesday, June 12, 2019

First Case, Second Case (Abbas Kiarostami, 1979)

Abbas Kiarostami, circa mid-70s
Programme notes written for the world premiere of the restored version of the film at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2019. — EK


GHAZIEH-E SHEKL-E AVVAL, GHAZIEH-E SHEKL-E DOVVOM
First Case, Second Case
Abbas Kiarostami, 1979

Written by Abbas Kiarostami. Shot by Houshang Baharlou. Edited by Abbas Kiarostami. Cast: Mehdi Azadbakht, Mohammadreza Barati, Hedayat Matin Daftari, Nader Ebrahimi, Gholamreza Emami, Mahmoud Enayat, Ezzatolah Entezami, Ali Mousavi Garmaroudi, Ali Golzadeh Ghafouri, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.

First Case, Second Case

This banned and rarely seen pseudo-documentary by Kiarostami is a testimony to his seldom acknowledged political shrewdness and his objective, complex perspective on the tumultuous events of the late 70s in Iran, culminating in the revolution. Remarkably, he achieved this without leaving his comfort zone, the classroom setting, and by staying faithful to his inquiring style, with its subtle, imaginative manipulation of recorded reality. Here, he also introduced the interview format into his body of work, putting his finger on the pulse of Iranian society by collaging conflicting viewpoints.


First Case, Second Case

The premise is incredibly simple, almost a variation on his 1975 short Two Solutions for One Problem.  A teacher is seen drawing a section of an ear on the blackboard (hence the theme of listening/surveillance). A student bangs his pen on the desk every time the teacher’s back is turned to the classroom. The teacher asks the students to name the culprit. They refuse. The teacher expels seven of the pupils, warning them that they will only be allowed back if they name the guilty party. The film is interrupted by Kiarostami showing footage of this incident to the parents of the students and some politicians, artists, writers – even the leaders of Jewish and Christian communities – asking them whether the students should stick together or name the guilty party.


First Case, Second Case's storyboard [source +]

The shoot began shortly before the revolution and continued until its aftermath, giving Kiarostami the idea to add to the film the opinions of some of the members of the new regime. This brought new depth to the film, turning it into a fresh discourse on the key dilemmas of the Iranian revolution: betrayal or camaraderie; moral values or group integrity; human rights or ideological goals? The fate of the interviewees should tell us how right Kiarostami was in his usual wisdom and profound simplicity, as some of them were soon after imprisoned because of their political ideas, and at least one was executed.
Ehsan Khoshbakht

The First Case, Second Case script  [source +]

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