Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iranian Filmmaker Beats the ‘Drum’ to an Oppressive Regime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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On the left is a shot of ‘Tabl,’ shot in black and white. Kaiwan Karimi on the right. Asharq Al-Awsat

Palm Springs- Living under the mercy of an oppressive regime, which either has its citizens be blindly obedient or brutally punished, Iranian director Kaiwan Karimi released another bold film ‘Tabl,’ otherwise known as ‘Drum’ reaffirming the rights for artists to express progressive ideas.

With French sponsorship, Karimi’s production stresses his right as an ordinary citizen to enjoy the freedom of expression. He challenged authorities, who in 2015 ordered jailing him for a cold six years.

Karimi later spent a single year in prison, after international intellectuals added their weight to his case. However, the director still had to fulfill other penalty verdicts he received, such as enduring ruthless 223 lashes, paying a $650 fine, and being barred from every making another film in Iran.

The filmmaker served his sentence over a documentary he directed on political graffiti in Iran, his French production company Les Films de l’Apres-Midi.

The 31-year-old filmmaker ran into trouble with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards over a film he directed called “Writing on the City.” The documentary details the history of political graffiti in Iran, starting from the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution to its contested election in 2009.

Karimi’s case is but one of many in Iran today, but the Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker’s cause has helped him receive moral support from three internationally renowned film festivals in San Sebastian, Cannes and Venice.

Like the famous Iranian screenwriter Jafar Panahi, Karimi was sentenced to house arrest and banned from doing what he loves, making movies.

In Karimi’s ghostly Tehran of ‘Tabl,’ it is impossible to tell day from night—or good from evil.

The film opens with a breathtaking scene of a night swept by a deafening silence across closed city markets—the wind rustling leaves and plastic bags flying.

A man later captivates Karimi’s lens, dragging one foot ahead of the other, he is burdened unforgettable violence and damage.

The camera then withdrew, moving towards a shabby building’s staircase, and imagined the man himself as he struggles to reach the top floor that he truly wants.

The middle-aged lawyer works and lives alone in a dreary apartment. One cold and rainy day, a disheveled man breaks in and entrusts him with a small package.

The following day, the lawyer’s apartment is ransacked and he must fight off threats to hand over the package. Neither his wife nor his best friend can offer much help in solving the mystery.

His best friend also happens to be a drug addict with a tendency to speak to an imaginary friend. The lawyer continues to be plagued with break-ins and unwelcome visitors (representing the oppressive nature of Iran’s strict regime), but he avoids attempts to corrupt him. When his wife is stabbed to death, the lawyer’s thirst for revenge will lead him to the greediest man of all.

Confirming its political background, the film’s storyline takes place in a stagnant city in an uncomfortable darkness.

Karimi portrays an atmosphere that drains all that is good in a soul. Life is shallow in the streets of his city. Footage is later emboldened with provocative slogans and writings saying that “the city is full of rapists.”

In one of the scenes, the protagonist reaches a dead end, Karimi’s lens then slowly zooms in on a sewer, relaying his perception of reality.

The screenwriting and directing job done on the film guarantee the audience enjoys a puzzling plot imbued with mystery. An adrenaline rush later builds up with the danger awaiting the Tabl’s lawyer.

But it should be kept in mind that Karimi’s work is not a Hollywood production with amplified police chases and action.

What the film does is keep the viewer entertained by the power of emotional intensity and inspiration driven by the relentless resilience present in the background.

The film is evidence of an existing breed of talented and valiant Iranian filmmakers insisting that art is a vital tool for communicating a message.

Karimi enjoys keen insight, intelligence and an exceptional ability to smartly weave his political views into the fabric of his films.