Home Feature "GILANEH" (Gilaneh)

"GILANEH" (Gilaneh)

Directors: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Mohsen Abdolvahab
Scriptwriters: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Farid Mostafavi, Mohsen Abdolvahab
Director of Photography: Morteza Poursamadi
Editor: Davood Yousefian
Art Director: Jila Mehrjui
Sound Recorder: Yadollah Najafi
Sound Mix: Mohammad-Reza Delpak, Amir-Hossein Ghasemi
Production Manager: Seyyed Abolghasem Hosseini
Executive Producer: Jahangir Kosari
Producer: Saeid Saadi
Cast: Fatemeh Motamed Arya, Bahram Radan, Baran Kosari, Jaleh Sameti, Shahrokh Frootanian, Majid Bahrami
Color, 35mm,84 min, 2005

The New Year's Eve and the Iran-Iraq war, Tehran is being repeatedly attacked with missiles. Gilaneh, a lonely middle-aged villager has to send her son to the war. She must also accompany her daughter to Tehran in search of her son-in-law, who has illegally left the service 15 years later: again the New Year's Eve, and Gilaneh-fatigued with life-is taking care of her chemically-wounded son and is also far away from her daughter. Incapable of looking after her son, Gilaneh is waiting for a woman from the South who has lost her husband in the war and made a promise to get married to Gilaneh's son This film depicts people whose love and destiny have been violated and changed by war.



A close-up look at a woman's suffering, "Gilaneh" is a strikingly photographed character-centered drama oozing moral integrity, but also bleakly anguishing to watch. Iran's premier femme helmer Rakshan Bani-Etemad smoothly teams with long-time collaborator Mohsen Abdolvahab and actress Fatemeh Motamed Arya to tell the tale of an Iranian Mother Courage whose beloved only son returns from the Iran-Iraq war a helpless invalid, and lives to see the Iraqi war waged by the U.S. and its allies. Most topical in its anti-war message, it will need strong critical support to move beyond probable fest prizes to larger audiences.
We first meet Gilaneh (Motamed Arya), a simple country woman, on Iranian New Year's 1988, when the Iraqis are targeting Teheran with missiles. Her handsome son Ishmael (Bahram Radan), engaged to be married, is off to the war to the sound of patriotic music blaring from the loudspeaker on a truckbed, while her headstrong pregnant daughter Maygol (Baran Kosari) insists on making the dangerous journey to Teheran to meet her husband, who has deserted.
In a neat temporal division, first half of pic traces Gilaneh and Maygol's hair-raising trip on foot and bus to the city, which everyone else is fleeing. The closer they get, the greater their apprehension over what they might find in the young couple's home.
Second half is set on New Year's fifteen years later: precisely, on March 20, 2003, the day the United States began bombing Baghdad. Showing her years, Gilaneh cares for her bedridden son, who has been wounded in the war by chemical weapons and whose health is constantly deteriorating. A kindly one-armed doctor (Shahrokh Frottanian) can do nothing to persuade her to allow the son to go to a veteran's home. Instead, she stubbornly clings to the impossible dream of marrying him off to a war widow from a distant town.
Entire film hinges around Motamed Arya's extraordinarily vital perf as the selfless mother who won't give up, but whose obsession also has darker overtones. She is one of those people who has lived through a key moment in history and been stranded in a noisy, banal modern world that doesn't recognize her sacrifice. Only towards film's end does her shrill cheerfulness ring a little hollow, as she descends into a pathos that ought to have been avoided. Kosari glows with foolish intensity as her lovelorn daughter.
On another level, however, the film is a powerful reflection on the current war in Iraq. The enormous pain and losses that Saddam Hussein's war machine inflicted on innocent Iranians like Gilaneh is at once vindicated by the American bombs and repeated in all its horror. "Live by the sword, die by the sword," comments one character gruffly. But the heroine's great heart is certainly not bent on vengeance; for Gilaneh, the new war is irrelevant and she keeps switching off the TV set. Wisely, the film refrains from direct comment, but the moral conundrum is there for those viewers who want to take it up.
The intense acting and emotion often shout theater, but dispelling the stagey feeling is cinematographer Morteza Poursamadi's sensual grasp of place, imbuing the wind-swept green hills of Gilaneh's farm country with feeling and meaning. The striking visuals help but don't fully compensate for a lack of story momentum, however, particularly in the second part

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BIOGRAPHY (Mohsen Abdolvahab)

Born in 1957 in Tehran, Mohsen Abdolvahab is a graduate in Editing from the IRIB University. He began his cinematic career from 1980, editing documentaries and features films. During his career, he has edited over 30 films. He has also produced 23 short documentaries and feature documentaries on cultural and industrial subjects. Abdolvahab is also experienced in the following fields: programming, assistant filmmaking, execution and production management in relation to several documentaries and features films. Abdolvahab has won many national and international awards; his last documentary "The Wives of Haj Abbas" received the Silver Wolf in Amsterdam Festival, 2001. His cooperation with Rakhshan Bani-Etemad started with "Nargess" and continued in all her other works. In "Gilaneh", he participated as co- director.


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  • Tribeca Int'l Film Festival (21 Apr-1 May 2005/ USA)
  • Moscow Int'l Film Festival (17-26 June 2005/ Russia)
  • Osian's Cinefan Int'l Film Festival (15-24 July 2005/ India)
  • Toronto Int'l Film Festival ( 9-18 Sep 2005/ Canada)
  • Fukuoka Int'l Film Festival (16-22 Sep 2005/ Japan)
  • Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and Eurasia Int'l F.F(24 Sep-1 Oct 2005/ Turkey)
  • Pusan Int'l Film Festival ( 6-14 Oct 2005/ Korea)
  • Flanders Int'l F.F (11-22 Oct 2005/ Belgium)
  • Women's Int'l Film festival in Japan (2005/ Japan)
  • Montreal New Cinema Int'l F.F (13-23 Oct 2005/ Canada)
  • Gene Siskel Film Festival in Chicago (1-31 Oct 2005/ USA)
  • Boston Festival of Films from Iran (11-27 Nov 2005/ USA)
  • Wv Int'l Film Festival (4-12 Nov 2005/ USA)
  • Asiatica Film Media Int'l Festival (19-27 Nov 2005/ Italy)
  • Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (2005/ USA)
  • India Int'l Film Festival (24 Nov-4 Dec 2005/ India)
  • Cairo Int'l Film Festival (29 Nov-9 Dec 2005/ Egypt)
  • Kara Int'l Film Festival (1-11 Dec 2005/ Pakistan)
    Winner of the Best Feature Film and Best Actress
  • Pune Int'l Film Festival (12-20 Jan 2006/ India)
  • Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (21-22 Jan 2006/ USA)
  • California Institute of Art REDCAT (Jan-Feb 2006/ USA)
  • Festival de Vesoul (31 Jan-7 Feb 2006/ France)
    Winner of the Jury NETPAC Award.
  • Bangkok International Film Festival (17-27 Feb 2006/ Thailand)
  • Women with Vision Festival ( 3-18 Mar 2006/ USA)
  • Fribourg Int'l Film Festival (12-19 Mar 2006/ Switzerland)
  • Nat Film Festival (24 Mar-9 Apr 2006/ Denmark)
  • Festival Int'l de Cine Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (24 Mar-1 April 2006/ Spain)
    Winner of the Special Jury ex aequo commendation
  • Women Film Festival in Seoul (6-14 April 2006/ Korea)
  • Festival Int'l dei Circoli del Cinema (12-17 June 2006/ Italy)
  • Yerevan Int'l Film Festival (10-15 July 2006/ Armenia)
  • Brisbane Intl Film Festival (2006/ Australia)
  • Yari Women Film Festival in Uppsala (2006/ Sweden)
  • High Museum of Arts in Atlanta (2006/ USA)
  • Aichi Film Festival (2006/ Japan)
  • Uppsala Yari Film Festival (10, 11 Sep 2006/ Sweden)
  • National Film Museum in Turin (19 Oct 2006/ Italy)
  • Braunschweig Film Festival( 7-12 Nov 2006 / Germany)
  • Taiwan Women Film Festival (25 Oct.)
  • Cambridge (23 Feb 2007 / New Hall College / England)
  • Syracuse F.F. (19-23 April 2007)
  • Art Gallery of New south Wales (15 August 2007)
  • Williams College (12 Sep. 2007/ USA)
  • BFI (21-30 April 2008/ UK)
  • Flying Broom Int'l Film Festival (8-15 May 2008/ Turkey)
  • Asia House Gallery (14 Oct 2008/ UK)
  • Festival du Film Amazigh (11-15 Jan 2009/ Algeria)
  • Centrro Espressioni Cinematografiche (5-8 March 2009/ Italy)
  • Iranian FF in Prague (12-15 Jan. 2012 / Czech Republic)
  • Shanghai Int'l Film Festival (16-24 June 2012 / China)
  • Persian Int'l Film Festival (22 Aug.-1 Sept. 2013 / Australia)

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