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At the height of the Iran-Iraq war, Bahram Beizai made Bashu: the Little Stranger. Beizai's film tells the story of young Bashu, who, displaced from his home in Khuzestan thanks to an Iraqi bombardment, seeks refuge in northern Iran. Bashu speaks Arabic while the villagers of northern Iran speak Gilaki. Thus Bashu fails to communicate with the people and is alienated from his new environment. He undergoes a further displacement when he hallucinates and sees his mother, who was killed in the bombardment but who wanders as an apparition through the fields of northern Iran. Past and present collide in this powerful story about childhood and war. The magnificent Susan Taslimi plays Naii, a middle-aged mother of two who takes Bashu in when her fellow villagers, by and large, reject him on the basis of his ethnicity. Filmed at the height of the war in 1985, the film experienced delays in its release, for the authorities found its message on the war to be, at best, ambiguous. At a time when cinema was recruited into the war effort, the authorities called for simple answers to complex questions: Does Beizai condemn the Iraqi invaders? Or does he condemn war in general terms as the total failure of the human spirit? Audiences found their own answers when the film was released in 1989.
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