You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Pilgrimage

The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami's "Pilgrimage."

With:
With: Mohammed Barani, Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Zarandi, Seyed Reza Borghei, Javad Salari. Narrator: Khosro Kouros. (Farsi, English dialogue)

The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively view the clash between old and new in Iranian culture beyond what he did in his recent films “Two Bows” and “Infidels.” “Pilgrimage’s” strong global fest run should continue, and running time makes for ideal cable programming.

Kiarostami is forever sniffing out a good story, and his collaborator Mitra Farahani’s idea proves terrific: to explore what really goes on at the Iranian border town of Mehran, through which thousands of devout Shiite Muslims try daily to get to Karbala, home of the shrine of martyred Shiite holy man Imam Hussein.

Khosro Kouros’ fine but brief intro narration explains that 30 years of conflict between Iran and Iraq have kept the border closed, and now, with the ongoing war in Iraq, Iran continues to ban crossings.

And yet, the pilgrims keep coming, many packed into old trucks and covered with a tarp. Compared with such dedication, the cool words of an Iranian TV commentator chiding the pilgrims seems ineffectual. A clever montage (the first of many, often set to a Bach piano suite) is a mild indicator of peace: signs indicating the direction to Karbala change from war slogans on the sides of rusted, abandoned tanks to current-day commercial signage.

Beleaguered and bemused judiciary official Mohammed Barani is amazed at the risks pilgrims take; many die of dehydration or from stepping on live mines left from war. His attempt to undercut the paradox of a religious-based court punishing the religious is to mete out the lightest sentence allowable — one to three years.

Many are fined the equivalent of $6, but also claim they’re broke when confronted by officials. An undercurrent of the pic’s many scenes of pilgrims stuck in bureaucracy is the question of how much they’re playing for the film’s cameras. Still seeing religious folk mired in glum rooms run by sweaty, overworked government agents speaks volumes about the gap between piety and societal law.

Given its brevity, “Pilgrimage” contains an astonishing range of moods — from farcical to heart-rending — and topics, including the knotty individual cases of illegal pilgrims with dual citizenship, or a coroner’s handling of victims and their leftover belongings.

As with “Infidels,” Kiarostami’s sense of pacing and editing is razor-sharp, guided by a taste for anarchic human nature as well as a less-is-more aesthetic.

Pilgrimage

Iran

Production: A Butimar Prods. presentation. (International sales: Butimar Prods., Menlo Park, Calif.) Produced by Bahman Kiarostami. Co-producer, Marjaneh Moghimi. Directed by Bahman Kiarostami. Based on an idea by Mitra Farahani.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Kiarostami, Farahani; editor, Kiarostami; music, J.S. Bach, CKK; sound, CKK; assistant director, Babak Salek. Reviewed on videotape, San Mateo, Calif., June 28, 2005. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- International Showcase. Also in Tribeca Film Festival.) Running time: 52 MIN.

With: With: Mohammed Barani, Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Zarandi, Seyed Reza Borghei, Javad Salari. Narrator: Khosro Kouros. (Farsi, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Film News Roundup: Maggie Gyllenhaal's 'Kindergarten

    Film News Roundup: Maggie Gyllenhaal's 'Kindergarten Teacher' Sells to Netflix

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • 'Mug' Review: Blackhearted Satire on Small-Minded,

    Berlin Film Review: 'Mug'

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • Richard Glickman Dead

    Richard Glickman, Engineer and Fog Machine Designer, Dies at 91

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • Aga

    Berlin Film Review: 'Ága'

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • Guillermo del Toro Shape of Water

    'Shape of Water' Lawsuit Spurs Debate Amid Oscar Voting

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • 'This Is Me' Catapults 'Greatest Showman'

    'This Is Me' Catapults 'Greatest Showman' Soundtrack Toward One Billion Streams

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

  • Rex Pickett

    Rex Pickett's Drama 'Repairman' Moving Forward as a Movie

    The paradox of an Islamic fundamentalist nation-state prohibiting citizens from crossing a border for religious visits to a holy site is brilliantly chronicled in Bahman Kiarostami’s “Pilgrimage.” Recognition of this filmmaking son of Abbas Kiarostami as a prominent and enormously gifted filmmaker is overdue, and, with his 10th docu, he extends his ability to perceptively […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content