In Iranian director Behnam Behzadi’s film Bending the Rules, a troupe of young actors are trying to figure out how to solve a pernicious family matter. They want to take their friend (played by Neda Jebraeeli) with them to perform overseas. But her control-freak father is worried that she’ll never return, or she’ll try to kill herself again. The young actors and director have to think their way through a delicate problem, and they debate options in contemplative voices. It’s a wonderful exploration of morality, loyalty and devotion to friends and family. The characters are well-drawn, the situation complex, the drama riveting without much action.
— story, photos copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media —
In the American film The Bling Ring, on the other hand, a group of youth in Los Angeles are truly revolting (and not in an Iranian sense of revolt.) Their problem? They have too much freedom and money, and they’re obsessed with celebrity. They go on a crime spree, robbing the homes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and others, and hawking it to none other than grunge rocker Gavin Rossdale.
(see photos of Rossdale on stage at Frequency Festival in Austria:
Based on a true story, director Sophia Coppola shows these uncouth youth in an unflattering light, and her depiction of the vain side of girls is something that perhaps no male director could achieve.
As in her iconic Tokyo film Lost in Translation, Coppola employs a slick soundtrack featuring Richie Hawtins, Kanye West and their posse, yo. But it’s hard to feel any sympathy for these preening teens, nor their negligent and dumbfounded parents.
The Iranian youth, on the other hand, act like mature humans, handling issues with sophistication and delicacy. The father figure cares too much for his daughter. The friends care too much about each other. But at least they do care.
The Americans, on the other hand, couldn’t give a damn. F-U loyalty and family. It’s all about me, me, ME.
Seen back-to-back, it’s hard to feel that America has some kind of moral superiority over Iran. Of course, US-Iran relations are more complex than that, and not all American youth are robbing celebrities. But based on these films alone, it’s easier to cheer for Behzadi’s Iranian youth than Coppola’s kids in Beverly Hills.