We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
One reason that Iranian directors produce such complex films is that the process of making movies in that country is so tangled. Much that’s commonplace in Iranian life can’t be shown because of religious or political censorship—not that there’s necessarily a difference—and every aspect of scripting and filming is subject to supervision. So some of the best-known Iranian filmmakers have been working outside the country: Abbas Kiarostami made ABC Africa in Uganda, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf went to India for Scream of the Ants. Kiarostami is among the noted directors—along with Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi, Dariush Mehrjui, and others—who contributed segments to Persian Carpet (pictured), the omnibus movie that opens the Freer’s 12th Iranian Film Festival. By contemplating an ancient symbol of Iranian culture, the film can explore the country’s textures without edging toward controversy. None of Iran’s top filmmakers are involved in the other five entries, several of which are unlike the wistful dramas and wry comedies typical of this annual overview. Iran, Seven Faces of a Civilization uses animation to survey seven millennia of Persian history and culture. A cavalcade of comic stereotypes, Rule of the Game pits an impoverished family against its upscale relatives in the sort of boisterous comedy that’s rarely exported. Most riskily, Red Robin conflates Islamic and Christian beliefs in the tale of a boy who tries to resurrect a playmate who fell to his death in a ravine. The series runs to Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th St. & Jefferson Drive SW; see Showtimes for this week’s films; see asia.si.edu/events/films.asp for a complete schedule. Free. (202) 633-4880.