Cast: Reza Naji, Maryam Akbari, Hossein Aghazi
Running time: 96 minutes
The Song of Sparrows is another strong feature from acclaimed Iranian director Majid Majidi, who first came to my attention when he won the main prize at the 1st (and last) East Asia Film & Television Festival held in Penang in 1997 for Pedar (The Father).
This was followed by Children of Heaven, which in 1998 was the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and remains one of the most delightful and moving films about children I have seen.
The Song of Sparrows is a cinematic parable that is at times funny, poignant and deeply spiritual in its simple tale about a man trying to make ends meet for his family.
Karim (Naji) is a well meaning man who stumbles onto some bad luck when an ostrich at the farm he works in escapes. After a humorous and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to entice the runaway bird back, Karim loses his job at the farm. To add to his misfortune, his eldest daughter gets her hearing aid broken and Karim is under pressure to sort this out before the girl’s upcoming exams.
In his quest to repair the hearing aid in neighbouring Tehran, Karim’s luck begins to turn when he is mistaken for a taxi and starts to earn good money for the relatively easy task of shuttling passengers around.
This is when his real troubles start as the city starts to affect Karim’s personality and character. The contrast between Iran’s fast-paced capital and the farm area where Karim lives is one of the central themes of the film. The city is grey, frantic and foreboding while the countryside is gorgeous and lush with rolling hills and colourfully dressed children full of life.
Naji’s portrayal of his character is nothing short of outstanding as he is an extremely expressive actor, and so are the wonderful young actors who play his children. The story, rife with symbolism (look out for the spilled goldfish scene), has plenty of humour interspersed appealingly in the larger tale, which celebrates the joys of community and rural life over a frantic and materialistic urban existence. The superb cinematography brings to life both, the urban chaos, as well as the idyllic rustic beauty of the country.
The Song of Sparrows is a gently meandering spiritual film that tells the story of familial loyalty, overcoming hardships and subsequent redemption.
I would strongly recommend this movie for the family, as well as suggest that you look up other films by Majid Majidi. You will not be disappointed. - Review by S.N.