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TO FEB. 6
Iran’s remarkably robust cinema, which continues to thrive despite heavy political and religious strictures, is best known for the work of Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and their followers, who mingle formal concerns with social commentary. The two previewable films in this annual program, however, reflect other traditions. Seyyed Reza Mir-Kar-imi’s Here, a Shining Light (pictured; Jan. 14 & 16) shows an affinity for magical realism: After a mentally challenged man is left in charge of a saint’s dilapidated shrine, he has a series of visitors; among the more curious is a miner who was just buried in the adjacent cemetery. The raucous Mama’s Guest (Jan. 21 & 23) is the work of Dariush Mehrjui, whose 1968 The Cow is the fountainhead of contemporary Iranian film. This movie locates a microcosm of contemporary Iranian society in the shabby courtyard shared by several houses; when a young man and his bride announce a visit to the groom’s aunt, all the bordering households are thrown into a frenzy of preparation. The other films are Javad Ardakani Movaqati’s Canary (Jan. 7 & 9), which is set in Palestine, where a 7-year-old boy attempts to build an ideal sanctuary for a local priest’s pet bird amid the daily tumult and menace of West Bank life; Mania Akbari’s 20 Fingers (Jan. 28 & 30), a controversial investigation of gender-related issues; and Abolfazl Jalili’s The First Letter (Feb. 4 & 6), in which a boy in ’70s Iran resists family displeasure to become friendly with a female Jewish classmate. Films screen Fridays at 7 p.m. and Mondays at 2 p.m. through Sunday, Feb. 6 (see Showtimes for a complete schedule), at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Mark Jenkins)