Scene from Bad o Meh (photo: Arsenal Distribution Berlin)
Mohammad Ali Talebi's Film ''Bad o Meh''

Childhood during the Iran-Iraq war

"Bad o Meh – Wind and Fog" is the latest film by Iranian director Mohammad Ali Talebi. The story revolves around children who have suffered traumas as a result of the Iran-Iraq war. Rachel Y. Baig/André Leslie introduce the film and its director

The cinema audience remained silently fixed in their seats. The credits of the Iranian film "Bad o Meh," which won the "Cinema Fairbindet" special prize, were still running as director Mohammad Ali Talebi, accompanied by the presenter, made his way up to the screen. The lights slowly came on to the thunderous applause of the public. This was the first showing of the film on its tour of Germany, which lasts until the end of the year.

The inspiration to Mohammad Ali Talebi's film was provided by the children's book "Summer and White Goose" by Mojgan Shaki. "Bad o Meh" is set in the 1980s and tells the story of a child at the time of the Iran-Iraq war. The film centres around the 7-year-old Sahand and his family. One day, while little Sahand is at home, his mother is killed in a bomb attack. Sahand survives, although injured and traumatized.

photo: Arselan Distribution Berlin
Trying to encourage critical thinking in a difficult political environment, and without words: the Iranian film director Mohammad Ali Talebi

​​From this moment onwards, he loses the ability to speak. The father brings the two children, Sahand and his sister Shooka, to their grandfather in the north. He hopes that the tranquillity and beauty of the north will help liberate Sahand from his trauma.

Yet, Sahand is teased by the other children in the village and continues to refuse to talk. His sister, an extremely strong character in the film, always tries to defend her little brother.

The turning point in the film is an excursion to a nearby lake, where Sahand finds a shot and wounded wild goose. Its feathers remind him of the white dress that his mother was wearing when she died. Although he has to leave the goose behind, he can't stop thinking about it. He slips out at night in an attempt to find it again.

Images instead of words

Mohammad Ali Talebi prefers to work with symbols. Even the film's title, "Bad o Meh", refers to the ongoing flux between wind and fog that takes place throughout the film, which is guided by an "either-or" principle. The film is full of contrasts – joy and aggression, wind and fog, as well as war and peace.

"I consciously chose to work with the contrast found between beautiful natural surroundings and war," says Talebi. He wanted to let the images speak for themselves, he explains, and to largely forgo the use of words. In fact, there is very little dialogue in the film.

photo: Arsenal Distribution Berlin
Contrasts between beautiful natural surroundings and the horrors of war: Scene from "Bad o Meh"

​​"Bad o Meh – Wind and Fog" is a film that stars children and is aimed at children. Talebi has stressed, however, that his film is also for adults. Many of his films are exclusively for children, such as those featuring puppets, but "Bad o Meh" instead targets an audience of young people and adults. The director wants to encourage critical thinking among film viewers. "It is a film that deals with children whose childhood has been stolen by war," he says. Talebi's next project will continue to explore this theme. He hopes to show what becomes of such children when they grow up.

A great many children's films are produced in Iran, primarily because it makes it easier for directors to attain a film permit. This also serves as a cover to convey a film's message not only to children and young people, but to adults as well. Talebi's situation as a film maker is not easy, but he is optimistic that he will always be able to work. As he sees it, the task of an artist is to experiment with the widest possible number of alternatives, but never to sell out on one's own ideas.

Rachel Y. Baig/André Leslie

© Deutsche Welle/ 2011

Translated from the German by John Bergeron

Deutsche Welle editor: Sabine Oelze, Lewis Gropp

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