Bazi

Showing at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Aug. 4–Thurs., Aug. 10. Not rated. 60 minutes.

The wall separating a little girl from potential companions is here a metaphor for the separation between Iranian reformers and hard-liners. Or Iran and Iraq. Or Sunnis and Shiites. Or the Muslim world and Israel. Or the West and Islam. Or maybe it's just a brick wall that thwarts bored young Saraya (Melika Emami, who looks to be about 5) from finding a playmate during a frustrating afternoon, filmed in what seems like real time. Unhappily confined to the family courtyard with her toys and dolls, she gets no help from her generally patient mother indoors. Saraya is tortured by hearing some new neighbor kids on the other side of the barrier, but her mother won't let them mingle until it's determined "how they've been raised." Cagey little schemer that she is, Saraya then uses every pout and ploy at her disposal to get what she wants. The movie's big plot turn comes with a purple-and-white striped ball that drops onto her side; she uses it with a cunning that Machiavelli would admire. But politics and symbolism aside, director Gholamreza Remezani succeeds in capturing a pure childish determination that any parent will recognize. There's one amazing shot where his young heroine, ears quiveringly attuned to the giggling voices over the wall, practically wills herself through the bricks and mortar, her face opening up like a flower to the sun. She seems to enter into their merry conversation, every word of which registers in her widening brown eyes.

Bazi begins a two-week series of three child's-eye movies from Iran. This weekend brings 1995's The White Balloon (see film calendar), written by Abbas Kiarostami, followed by the 1987 Where Is the Friend's Home?, which he directed. BRIAN MILLER

 
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