films | theatre



In 1959 Farrokhzad went to England to study film production and English. Back in Iran, she had her first experiences in filming documentaries and began editing a film called A Fire, photographed by Golestan's brother Shahrokh. The story of an 1958 oil well fire near Ahvaz that lasted over two months until an American fire-fighting crew extinguished it, A Fire juxtaposes the blaze with the sun and moon, flocks of sheep, villagers eating, harvest time, and the like. Efforts to quell the fire assume the proportions of a duel of man versus fire which the experienced, single-minded chief firefighter, who limps presumably from a previous fire-fighting accident, finally wins. Farrokhzad herself took a trip to Khuzestan in the same year, from which time she was active in films, sometimes acting, sometimes producing, sometimes assisting and editing. Two of these films are a short documentary on Iranian courtship customs made for a Canadian organization, and water and Heat (1961), which portrayed the dizzying social and industrial 'heat' of the Abadan enviroment.

A Fire was shown in 1961 and met with some success. In the following summer, Farrokhzad assisted in the production of and played a role in a never-completed film called the Sea, based on a story by Chubak called "Why Did the Sea Become Stormy?

Then in the fall of 1962, Farrokhzad and three colleagues from Golestan Films traveled to Tabriz and in twelve days filmed The House Is Black, a documentary on the leper colony there. Forugh later expressed deep personal satisfaction with the project insofar as she had been able to gain the lepers' trust and become their friend while among them. Actually, the experience proved to have lasting consequences since she shortly thereafter adopted a boy from his leper parents in the colony and took him to Tehran to live at her mother's house. After Farrokhzad's death, the boy's father made public numerous letters she had written him in which she revealed maternal feelings toward her adopted son that she had been unable to express toward her own child, who was being raised by her ex-husband's family.

As for the significance of The House is Black, it had the effect of presenting Farrokhzad in a new light to some devotees of modernist literature and other intellectuals previously unconvinced of her seriousness or sincerity as an artist. Hitherto imputing some sensationalism or deliberate attention-seeking to her poetry and life style, the talent and feeling that the film revealed changed their minds. More importantly, Golestan, Chubak and others feel that the film unequivocally embodied Farrokhzad's view of contemporary Iranian society, a popular secular intellectual view in fact. As Golstan, who supervised the film's editing, sees it, The House Is Black depicts a leprous society in which the people trust in God and see a cure for their condition through prayer, whereas only science and surgery can effect a cure. Without such treatment, the society leprosy will remain and increase.

Farrokhzad produced another film in 1962, a documentary for Kayhan Publishers on aspects of newspaper production. All in all, it was an extremely active year, but not necessarily a happy one, as the following except from a letter from this period reveals: I feel that I have lost in life. And I know much less than I ought to know at twenty-seven years of age. Perhaps the reason for this is that I have never had a bright life. That love and ridiculous marriage at the age of sixteen shook the foundations of my life afterwards. I have never had anyone to guide me in life. No one has provided me with intellectual and spiritual training. What ever I have, I've gotten from and by myself. And all the things I do not have, I could have had. But mistaken paths and lack of self-awareness and dead ends in life have not allowed me to attain them. I want to begin again. My bad traits are not because of bad actions, but rather result of intense feelings, of fruitless good intentions.

A Lonely Woman
Michael Hillmann Page 43-44


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