Documentaries About Forugh Farrokhzad

To understand the status of poet and filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad in Iran, one would have to combine the mythologies of Maya Deren, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, and Bessie Smith, but even that might not communicate her importance as a feminist martyr and literary pioneer. Nasser Saffarian’s two fascinating hour-long video documentaries about Farrokhzad (1935-’67), Forugh Farrokhzad: The Green Cold (2001) and The Mirror of the Soul, ultimately do more for her legend than for her work. Speaking to Farrokhzad’s mother, siblings, friends, and fellow poets (but not to Ebrahim Golestan, her friend, lover, fellow writer, and filmmaking mentoronly a son is interviewed), Saffarian presents a wealth of valuable material, though his tendency to cut between the shortest of sound bites often limits the discourse. I was grateful to hear Farrokhzad reading from her work, to see snippets of Bernardo Bertolucci’s TV interview with her, and to learn that filmmaker Darius Mehrjui once translated some of her work for the Paris Review. But practically every clip from her great short The House Is Black is mutilated in some fashion (usually by replacing the sound track with voice-over), and her poetry is mainly represented by scattered lines quoted out of context. (From this standpoint, The Mirror of the Soul is an improvement over The Green Cold.) It’s a continuing scandal that most bookstores don’t carry English translations of Farrokhzad, the greatest Persian poet of the 20th century, so these documentaries are an invaluable introduction to her work. (JR)

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