Directed by : Mohsen Makhmalbaf/Marziyeh Meshkiny
Cast: Dachi Orvelashvili, Misha Gomiashvili
Runtime: 1 h 58 min
UK Release Date: 21 August 2015
It seems quite fitting to be watching a film about the downfall of a fictional Eastern European dictator in the austere Brutalist surroundings of the Curzon Bloomsbury, my new favourite cinema. First up, the seats slide, secondly, they make a good macchiato, and thirdly (though this should probably ‘firstly’) they give me the opportunity to watch important independent films like ‘The President’, where others do not.
I’m ashamed to admit that this is one the first of Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s films that I have seen, the only other being the brilliant Kandahar. According to his IMDB profile, he’s very prolific, but typically in this day and age, it’s difficult to get hold of his catalogue to watch. The film was co-directed by his equally prolific wife Marziyeh Meshkiny.
The films story begins in the last gasp of a man known only as ‘The President”s dictatorship. Whilst switching the lights of his ‘Unknown City’ off, purely for the amusement of his beloved Grandson, the first throws of a revolution begin. After his spoilt family are hurried off, a chain of circumstances send The President and his Grandson on a desperate escape through the very country he has ruled so brutally, where the price on his head increases by the day, and every human he encounters is a possible threat.
The film’s dictator is a clear nod to any of the tin-pot leaders overthrown in the Arab Spring, and the ending of the film appears to be directly inspired by the capture of Sadam Hussain, and it’s from this inspiration that the film derives so much of its power. This leader could very well be real, installed to brow beat a population, and later vilified by the very same powers that put him there.
Makhmalbaf’s real triumph, however, is his crafting of the relationship between Grandfather and Grandson, the latter being a talisman of the formers old life. The heir to a former God’s throne, now forced to disguise himself as a dancing fool to his Grandfather’s travelling musican. Brilliantly satirical, funny and brutal, and a must see. Catch it whilst you can!