AFI Fest: The Accordion - A short by Jaffar Panahi (November 7, 2010)

The Accordion is a short segment in a 88 minute film composed of 22 short movies. The central theme of all the stories is human rights. It's titled "THEN AND NOW Beyond Borders and Differences" produced by Geneva and Milan-based ART for The World (UN NGO). Independent filmmakers from five continents join to make films stressing cross cultural-beliefs and common lineages.

Child street musicians perform frequently in South Tehran and all over Iran. Hence, it's no surprise that Jaffar Panahi made this short about this subject. Because of Iran's stringent censorship rules, it's safer to make a film about the lives of children in Iran. But Panahi intentionally adds religion to the plot. The story is about two child musicians whose accordion is taken away from them while playing near a Mosque. They're confronted by an angry mob and warned that it is forbidden to play music at a place of worship. Panahi is hinting that religion restricts freedom of expression. But Islam clearly states that all children are innocent and pure and therefore cannot be guilty of any wrongdoing. Besides, folk music is tolerated in Iran. Only Rock, rap and heavy metal are considered inappropriate. Consequently, they should have never been confronted or punished. The fault rests with the people in this case and their wrong interpretation of religion. Of course, this cannot be ruled out in real life but it's highly unlikely. Panahi is so fed up with the system that he cheats in order to make his point. His work and some of his statements have crossed the line from just being critical of the government. He has also been critical of religion.

Scene from The Accordion

Iranian directors often have been inspired by European cinema and particularly the Italian neorealism style. This short is reminiscent of De Sica's "the Bicycle Thief". It's a copy which is even better than the original. Though, this story has an Iranian Twist. The younger child sympathizes with the thief because he is even poorer than them. Panahi ends the film with a high note and advocates non-violance to solve the conflict.

It's noteworthy to mention that Panahi was banned to present this short at the Venice Film Festival because of his political activities and overt support of the reformist faction. Filmmakers like Panahi have made humanistic masterpieces and shown the beautiful and gentle side of post-revolutionary Iran to the world. Thererfore, their decent is tolerated to a certain extent. Others were not so lucky.

Director: Jafar Panahi
Production Company: ART for The World
Run time: 9:00

Watch the film

South Tehran Child Street Musicians (Real Footage)

The setting is outside of a football stadium. The children are targeting
the fans of a soccer club (Esteghlal). As you can see, they're treated fairly well.

Related Links
Stories on Human Rights: a film inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNRIC)
Jafar Panahi (IMDB)

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