The House is Black


Forough Farrokhzad’s 1963 film, The House is Black (in Persian: “Khaneh Siah Ast”), starts with this voice-over:

“There is no shortage of ugliness in the world. If a man closed his eyes to it, there would be even more.”

And so it is in this highly affective, 22-minute documentary set in a leper colony, as the viewer can’t look away once the film has started.

Farrokhzad, who we wrote about a few weeks ago, both directed and edited, layering music and her own poetry atop images of the colony’s residents: a man with uneven stubs for legs half-crawling to a couch; a woman lining her unnaturally sunken eyes with kohl; a man with no fingers praying out loud; the disfigured members of a wedding party dancing; a man with no nose smoking a cigarette; all slivers of happiness and normalcy among lots of poverty and pain and ugliness. Besides the opening voice-over and Farrokhzad’s poetry, there’s only one other voice-over in the film – an explanation of leprosy stressing that it’s a curable disease. I won’t spoil where the title comes from, but it’s moving without feeling contrived.

In a time when diseases like leprosy were not understood and their victims became twice-victimized – once by the disease and a second time by the effects of the ignorance surrounding it – I wonder what this film might have changed in Iran. If anyone has any info, please share it with us.

The DVD that we got (from Netflix, put out by Facets Multimedia) featured an interview with Forough’s sister, Pooran Farrokhzad, in the extras. And incidentally, the interview was an excerpt of the Adventure Divas’ trip to Iran, which we wrote about yesterday.

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