Iranian director Mohammad Ali Talebi won the special prize for his film 'Wind and Fog', at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film tells the story of a childhood shattered by war.
Wind and Fog recounts a child's journey after the horrors of war
In the movie "Wind and Fog", eight-year-old Sahand and his older sister have returned to their home in Iran's fertile north. They had been in the southern part of the country, in a hot, dry city, where their father found work in the oil fields.
When the war with Iraq began in 1980, the family's house was destroyed in a bomb attack. Young Sahand witnesses the death of his mother in the bombing and loses the ability to speak.
The film, which traces the boy's journey back from despair and heartbreak, won the first-ever CINEMA fairbindet (CINEMA Connects) prize, which is sponsored by the German Development Ministry and is meant to go to a film "that addresses a global issue and encourages discussion in an extraordinary way - whether climate change, migration, education or human rights violations".
The four-person jury was looking for a film that had a strong aesthetic or emotional sensibility and the narrative drive to provide a new look at a matter of global importance. They found it in "Wind and Fog", saying the work employed "captivatingly beautiful images from the north of Iran to show how a young boy returns to reality".
Sahand witnesses the death of his mother in the film
Director Mohammad Ali Talebi, 53, has been making films for children and teenagers over the past 30 years. With this project, he said wanted to make a film that would present how a child experiences war and its aftermath. What he didn't want was to use violent images, such as big explosions.
"I wanted to communicate it on an emotional level," he said.
Bringing films to a wider audience
The CINEMA Connects award carries a cash prize of 5,000 euros, but also seeks to expose the film to a wider audience by sending it on a "road show" through 25 German cities. It is hoped that the screenings will spark conversation and get people interested in development work.
"Film can enable people to sort of look into neighbors' windows and see how they live," said the Berlin film festival's director, Dieter Kosslick. "That kind of understanding is what we need to develop tolerance for people who have different ways of thinking or different skin colors or who live under different systems."
"Wind and Fog" was part of the festival's Generation division, which features short and feature-length films for children and youth. It was regarded as a small adjunct to the festival when it was inaugurated in 1978, but it has grown significantly in recent years, attracting ever-bigger and older audiences.
"I am very happy that this film is aimed at a younger generation," said Dirk Niebel, German development minister. "Because the earlier people begin thinking on an international scale, the closer we are to a more peaceful world."
Much of the film takes place in Iran's fertile, damp north
Rich in imagery
"Wind and Fog" is rich with otherworldly dream sequences and beautiful images from the foggy landscapes of northern Iran. It was shot over two-and-a-half months in a mountainous region of northern Iran and an arid, desert area in the south of the country with oil refineries on the skyline.
All the cast members were non-professional actors who "had to be patiently rehearsed for their roles," said Talebi, who flew to Berlin from Tehran for the premiere.
While the overall story of Sahand and his relationship to his family is a universal one, the film is also firmly anchored in Iranian realities and the country's culture.
Director Talebi says he often feels very alone in Iran, where he gets little of the kind of encouragement he has experienced in Berlin. That is why the CINEMA Connects prize is important to him, as is continued recognition of Iranian directors outside their country.
"It gives us the courage and energy to continue making films," he said. "It's a wonderful gift that my film won't only be seen in Berlin, but also in other German cities. That's going to give encouragement to filmmakers all over the world to keep going with their work."
Author: Silke Bartlick (jam)
Editor: Kyle James