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Recent reviews

In September 2022, Mediateca Onshore was inaugurated in Malafo, a village in Guinea-Bissau, marking a half-century of Guinean cinema production. Resonance Spiral documents the construction of this community screening space—but what’s being built is so much more. Part of a decade-long project instigated by filmmakers and artists Filipa César, Sana na N’Hada, and Marinho de Pina, among others, the building is a site for preserving Guinean militant cinema histories, a portal for making audiovisual archives from of the country’s revolutionary…

Kumjana Novakova’s award-winning second feature shakes open the archive of what has come to be known as the Foča Rape Camp Trial, which led to the codification of mass rape and sexual enslavement as a weapon of war as crimes against humanity under international law. Drawing on survivor testimonies that reveal the depths of war crimes committed against women and girls during the Bosnian War, Novakova’s unflinching film preserves the subjects’ anonymity while bearing witness to their collective memory—and their…

To Save and Project kicks off on January 11 with the North American premiere of Albert Parker’s The Black Pirate, introduced by filmmaker Alexander Payne (The Holdovers, Election). As MoMA curator Dave Kehr, who helped oversee the painstaking and complicated restoration, observes, “Douglas Fairbanks didn’t get to be the King of Hollywood by doing anything small, and when he decided to make a pirate movie—at the urging, in Hollywood legend, of the child star Jackie Coogan—he wanted color to reflect…

Guiseppe Tornatore’s love letter to a Sicilian childhood spent at the movies, depicted through the father-son relationship between a local cinema projectionist and the village scamp who takes refuge in his booth, won the hearts of audiences worldwide—and became instantly recognizable for Ennio Morricone’s touchingly sentimental score. Today, as we settle for streaming “content” at home, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the magic of Dream Palaces and watching Charlie Chaplin together under the stars.

4K restoration screening December 1 and 4 at MoMA.

Sumptuously designed and photographed, Prince Ehtejab is one of the finest Iranian films about decadence. Based on a story by the renowned Iranian author Houshang Golshiri, this elegant, complex interweaving of history and psychology is told in flashback from the deathbed of an aristocrat (Jamsheed Mashayekhi)—one of the last members of the Qajar dynasty—whose body is ravaged by tuberculosis and whose mind is torn asunder by memories of his family’s history of brutality and repression.

Q&A with Bahman Farmanara on November 11 at MoMA.

Based on a story by co-screenwriter Houshang Golshiri, this symbolic tale of villagers terrorized by a scarecrow they themselves have planted was banned for different reasons both before and after the revolution: The Shah’s censors, increasingly nervous during the volatile late 1970s, saw the film as an attack on Mohammad Reza Pahlavi himself. The ayatollah’s censors, setting down strict regulations after 1979, pulled the film from theaters after just three days because of its purported leftist sympathies, owing to a scene of a popular uprising involving red flags.

November 10 and 26 at MoMA. Q&A with Bahman Farmanara on November 10.

Based on a story by Anton Chekhov, Dead End is one of the most prescient films to come out of late-1970s Iran, a devastating portrait of love and longing in a country built on fear and surveillance. When a starry-eyed young woman notices a man standing under her window day and night, she becomes convinced he’s in love with her. While she fantasizes about their happy union, reality has crueler plans in mind. The ensemble cast is memorable, especially real-life mother and daughter Mary Apick and Apick Youssefian, as well as Bahman Zarrinpour.

Q&A with Parviz Sayyad on October 27 at MoMA.

Inspired by a tale in A Thousand and One Nights, this black comedy takes place over the course of one of those nights, as a troupe of traveling actors, the father of a bride, and a hairdresser and his assistant (played by director Farrokh Ghaffari himself) try to rid themselves of an unwelcome corpse while uptown Tehranis party to Ray Charles R&B. In a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, Ghaffari, also a critic and film historian, intended…