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Short of the Week: Forough Farrokhzad's influential documentary 'The House is Black'

The House Is Black

Iranian poet and filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad is regarded as one of the most influential artists of her time whose work ushered in the Iranian New Wave. Through her modernist poetry and experimental films, Farrokhzad launched subversive and iconoclastic explorations of multiple art forms and successfully espoused powerful feminist values.

Farrokhzad’s love for films was properly ignited by director/writer Ebrahim Golestan who urged her to live life on her own terms. A few years after meeting him in 1958, Farrokhzad decided to make a trip to Tabriz in order to document the plight of Iranians suffering from leprosy there.

In an interview with Bernardo Bertolucci, Farrokhzad said, “An intellectual is one who, besides trying for the external development of life, tries for the spiritual advancement, for the improvement of the moral issues. And he looks at these issues, thinks about them and solves them for himself. More than those who perform a series of…technical or economical actions.”

Although it is just 22 minutes in length, The House is Black thoroughly explores the ugliness of the human condition in a leper colony in Northern Iran. The documentary combines the visually overwhelming footage of the neglected society with the filmmaker’s narration of her own poetry and other religious tests like the Old Testament and the Koran. Over the course of 12 days of shooting, Farrokhzad became immensely attached to a child of two lepers and ended up adopting him.

Watch Forough Farrokhzad’s seminal short documentary The House is Black below.