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"Close Up" (1990) Iranian Docufiction by Kiarostami


In 1990, Iranian film director, Abbas Kiarostami produced a docufiction film called “Close Up”, where the main characters starred as themselves. The characters were Hossian Sabzian, Mohsen Makmalbaf, Aloblfazi Ahankhah, Monoochehr Ahankhah, and Mahrokh Ahankhah. The main idea was that the main character, Sabzian was impersonating Moshen Makmalbaf, one of the top filmmakers in Iran.


In 1990, Iran was recovering from two deadly conflicts, first was the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s and the other was the Iran-Iraq war that ended two years before this film was released. Combined with the two conflicts, Iran’s population doubled, and the average age population decreased to a younger age from where it was before. The growing population of Iran prevented a job growth because prior to this time, a large number of Iranians worked in agriculture, which consistently was decreasing. Iranians were transitioning to work in urban settings such as factories. As a result of the Iran-Iraq war, the damage from the war costed the nation $500 billion, 300,000 lives were lost and an additional 500,000 were injured. Following the war, Iran began to rebuild their country slowly, but this movie was released shortly after the war ended, so Iranians were still struggling, especially Sabzian who struggled finding a job and supporting a family. This movie illustrated how the Iranian court system works using Sabzian as an example. Sabzian commited a crime for impersonating movie producer Moshen Makmalbaf.


The story began when a journalist wanted to write a story about Sabzian impersonating film producer Makmalabaf. Then, the journalist interviewed the Ahankhah family, where Sabzian took advantage of them and committed fraud and attempted fraud, according to Iranian Law. The first 26 minutes of the movie provided an overview of what happened between Sabzian and the Ahankhah family. Following that, Sabzian got arrested and goes into trial to be questioned to determine if he is guilty or not guilty. Following his arrest, the film’s perspective transitions to Sabzian’s perspective where he was testifying in court. While he was in court, the movie backtracked to illustrate briefly Sabzian impersonates Makmalabaf to other people in public, specifically the bus scene where he met Mrs. Ahankhah. Once he backtracked, he was so sorry for everything he did, and he continued to plead not guilty for his crimes. Towards the end, his mom also testifies in court to share a story about Sabzian.


As he continued to plead not guilty, the story transitioned to share Mr. Ahankhah’s side of the story with Sabzian. His story was that Sabzian premeditated this whole fraud incident, where the family would go to a movie then while at the movies, Sabzian would go to his house to start stealing their belongings. Additionally, Mr. Ahankhah realized right away that Sabzian was pretending to be nice, so he was smart to not go to the movies at all. Following Mr. Ahankhah’s story, Sabzian asked for forgiveness because he never shared his life struggles to the public before.


Although this film was considered to be a docufiction, the film and sound quality was like a documentary or a news report instead of a movie. Compared to a typical movie, it seemed extremely real, especially with all of the actors playing as their selves. Additionally, there were some film equipment shown while the documentary was being recorded in the courtroom by the journalist and his coworkers. Other than those aspects, this movie was a mixture between a live courtroom case, a movie and a documentary, which movie producer Moshen Makhmalbaf creates in real life. He continues to make movies and he made 20 feature films and won several awards for his other films.

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