A city which comes apart at the seams

November 2007 -

Film: Tehran Has No More Pomegranates - Massoud Bakhshi

Tehran Has No More Pomegranates by Massoud Bakhshi is a special and refreshing documentary. Not a real story, or an upgraded report, but a cleverly constructed portrait of a city. We are actually looking at material which Bakhshi collected for a documentary which 'for various reasons remained unfinished'. At the beginning of the movie he donates his tapes to the archive of the Documentary & Experimental Film Center, where he works himself.


Still fromTehran Has No More Pomegranates

Bakhshi records historical images of Tehran alongside shots of the modern metropolis and tries to spot the differences. With irony he praises present day achievements. No mud huts, no illiterate peasants, no disease from polluted water, but nice flats, motorways, intellectuals, supermarkets and, by God's grace, clean water. All the people he speaks with are content, yes very content with life in Tehran. Except for one man, but he is always grumpy. When Bakhshi asks him why, he gives evident answers. The city is filthy, the air is polluted, the people are poor.

Then Bakhshi zooms in on the differences: old houses and poverty in the southern part of the city, new developments and wealth in the north. An engineer wants to demolish all old buildings and replace them with uniform new ones. We see a young couple in a luxurious 600 square meter apartment and a large family in a one-room cottage.

It seems the pace of the movie is going faster and faster, again and again we see cars racing along the motorways. Bakhshi effectively creates the image of a city which comes apart at the seams, of people who want more and they want it fast. Then he comes up with a disastrous prediction: it's rumbling underneath the earth and Tehran will be struck by a massive earthquake. It will erase the city, kill millions of people and spread disease and poverty.

Bakhshi made a smart movie which is dramatic and funny at the same time, which contains a healthy dose of mockery without being cynical and which is on top of that imaginative and informative.

Tehran Has No More Pomegranates can be seen at IDFA, November 22 - December 2 2007.