Director: Salaheddin Noori
Writer: Salaheddin Noori
Cast: Mohammad Javad Khajeh, Amir Tehrani, Homa Barzegari
With most film festivals depending on submission fees to sustain their operations, granting fee waivers is a tough decision. But that also means that already marginalised voices can struggle to be heard, at the very events they depend on for a platform.
Indy Film Library’s Saturday Matinees series has returned for a second season, to give artists from low-income backgrounds, opposition groups hit by censorship, or individuals in nations hit by international sanctions a platform.
The second six-part series of Saturday Matinees has already shown work from South Africa, India and Nepal. This week, our free-to-view short comes from Salaheddin Noori, a filmmaker based in Tehran. His off-kilter short comedy My Partner Giraffe takes place in a quiet book store, with what might kindly be described as an ‘unusual’ business model.
Shopkeeper Amir (Amir Tehrani) has been running a racket, which involves mailing books to people he knows are dead, in the hope their grieving relatives will honour the ‘invoice’. Amir’s shady dealings seem to have finally caught up with him, when Goodarz Aligoodarz (Mohammad Javad Khajeh) – son of Goodarzali Aligoodarz – comes to the store looking for answers.
Determined to get himself out of a bind, and return to his life of quietly ripping people off, Amir turns to his wife Homa (Homa Barzegari) for help. What then transpires is one of the most deranged plots I think IFL has ever covered. Homa has recently come into possession of a ‘book of African magic’, which supposedly can transform the enemies of its reader into an animal of their choosing. Due to Goodarz’s apparently “long neck”, the pair decide he would be best suited to become the film’s titular creature.
It is a ridiculous plan, rooted in an antiquated brand of racism – still regarding Africa as a homogenous land, populated solely by backward practitioners of ‘dark magic’ – and one which I would have taken it to task for, were it not for the fact its proponents are the butt of a richly-deserved punchline. In the end, two ignorant members of the petit-bourgeoisie spend the duration of the film believing they are ‘out-smarting’ somebody – waving their hands over him behind his back, feeding him ‘cursed soup’, and nodding knowingly when they notice him dolefully chewing the cud with a branch of celery – only to find that they were always two steps behind.
It is a bizarre movie, but remains an enjoyable watch thanks to its central performances. In particular, Mohammad Javad Khajeh’s performance brings an extra dimension to what could have been a throw-away tale of absurdism. At times he embraces and embodies this absurdity, but more importantly he injects a sense of reality into the production, helping carry the audience along for the ride.
In all honesty, My Partner Giraffe is not the kind of film I imagined helping to gain an audience, when we launched our Saturday Matinees line. Whether it has any social or political commentary at its heart, beyond the very broad strokes I have already painted it with, is highly debatable. But not every film coming out of Iran should have to be a political treatise for it to be worthy of an audience. This is a fun piece of light comedy, which chooses its targets well.
The film will be available to view for free in full from 09:00 UK time on Saturday the 11th of March, until the end of the weekend, via our Saturday Matinees theatre page. As the film is still trying to gain access to other festivals, the page is password protected. Use the code IFLMATINEE2324 to access the film.