Rang-e khoda (The Color of Paradise)
Directed by Majid Majidi
Review by Matt Heffernan
It's very exciting to see films coming from new sources. Iran is just starting to get a presence in global cinema, thanks in no small part to Majid Majidi, who is acting as his country's film ambassador. Last year, his 1997 film Bacheha-Ye aseman (The Children of Heaven) toured the world, impressing audiences and winning awards (including an Academy Award nomination). Now, his follow-up has come to America, with hopes of continued success.
Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani) is a blind boy who goes to a special school in Tehran. When school is dismissed for a three-month vacation, Mohammed's father (Hossein Mahjoub) is late to pick him up. He is a widower, and is reluctant to take care of him. The school can't keep him there all year, so they go back to the country.
Mohammed's grandmother (Salime Feizi) and his sisters are there waiting for him. He is happy to be around his family again, but his father is worried about his son's future. He apprentices Mohammed with a blind carpenter (Mohammed Rahmaney), which he says is for the boy's own good, but may be just a compensation for his feelings of inadequacy.
Rang-e khoda (The Color of Paradise) is a simple, beautiful film. Ramezani (who makes his film debut, like most of the other castmembers) is very impressive in a role of real depth. Mohammed isn't bitter or depressed; he's somewhat like his prophet namesake. Without being distracted by sight, he is able to achieve a higher sense of spirituality. Majidi captures this aspect of the film with great skill, creating an intriguing character that doesn't depend on any Hollywood conventions.
Besides this character study, what is most striking about this film is the color. Most Americans probably think of Iran as a desolate desert, but here we see a bucolic Wonderland that supports the presented fable. Between these moments of beauty, however, are too many slow parts that reveal the slight nature of the film. This story may have worked better as a short.
What I don't understand is the PG rating for "thematic elements". Color of Paradise is a perfectly acceptable family film. If it were a Disney cartoon, Jack Valenti would have given a G without blinking. The end may be a little harrowing, but it's nothing that wasn't just as intense as Pinocchio (which was certainly an inspiration). I think this would be a good opportunity not only to take your children to a foreign film, but to show them that humans live in Iran -- not just the monsters portrayed in the media. I'd like to think that world peace could be achieved through artistic exchange.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Rang-e khoda (1999)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan