A movie for every day of the year – a good one
Islamic Development Bank founded, 1973
On this day in 1973, finance ministers meeting at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now called the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) set up the Islamic Development Bank. Designed to serve Muslims around the world, it is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Egypt and other leading Islamic countries and in May 2013 it tripled its authorised capital to $150 billion. It operates by lending money for “productive projects and enterprises” – development projects including bridges, canals, roads and other infrastructure. Though it is often assumed that the earning of interest against the lending of money is against the spirit of the Koran, Muslims have come to the same accommodation to the practice as Christians did when they stopped equating all money-lending with usury. The emphasis now, in Islam as elsewhere, is on ethical lending at reasonable rates of interest.
Fireworks Wednesday (2006, dir: Asghar Farhadi)
Fireworks Wednesday’s opening shot is of a young Iranian woman in a long, flowing chador riding along a dirt road on the back of her fiancé’s motorbike. She’s looking at pictures as she goes and so doesn’t notice that her chador has slipped. It gets caught in the bike chain and the bike comes to a shuddering halt, throwing the couple to the ground. They are unhurt but the point has been made – how do people living modern lives function if they are encumbered by tradition? And off we go, into a film that sees the young, wide-eyed bride-to-be injected into the household of a well-to-do couple just before the day when the new year will be marked with fireworks. They are far more Western than she, mutually suspicious, their marriage falling apart around them. Point two has been made. Do we want to live in a world of Western values, where sacred institutions are treated as valueless? This being Asghar Farhadi, whose A Separation deservedly won him the best foreign language Oscar in 2012, this discussion goes on at a good depth below the surface, lumbering analogy is not what Fireworks Wednesday is about. And, like A Separation, Fireworks Wednesday is as easy to watch as a soap opera, particularly in the way it introduces characters expertly and effortlessly. We meet the wife, the husband, the hairdresser next door whom the husband is possibly having an affair with. We meet various other people orbiting this group, each of them on the screen as fully formed characters. The acting is so good, the camera so unobtrusive, the situations so perfectly presented to us that it is easy to forget that this is a film at all; it has a documentary believability. It is, if anything, even better than A Separation – one of the best films of 2011 – and sets Farhadi among that elite group of brilliant Iranian directors, such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi and Abbas Kiarostami.
- A director at the top of his game
- A simple yet profound drama
- A peek inside modern Iranian life
- Taraneh Alidoosti’s wide-eyed central performance
© Steve Morrissey 2013