Art and Experience: Iranian director/writer Narges Abyar’s latest movie “Breath” shows how hopes and dreams of many Iranian children were shattered by the flames of the war that Iraq lit in 1980.
The story of the film begins in the late 1970s in Valadabad, a poor suburb of Karaj, where Bahar, Nader, Kamal and Maryam, live with numerous colorful dreams of their childhood along with their father and granny, but their mother has died a few years before.
Their father, who suffers from asthma, works for a shoemaking company. In her dreams, Bahar, who narrates the story of the film, wishes to treat him when she becomes a doctor.
Iraq attacks Iran in September 1980, and the father decides to join the Iranian volunteers on the warfront. Thus, granny and the children have to leave their home to live with their relatives in Yazd.
Bahar tells of her dreams, all of which are suddenly buried with her under rubble when their home is hit by Iraqi rockets.
“I wanted to show the story in an atmosphere, which was very close to the real life,” Abyar told the Tehran Times.
“I wanted to illustrate how many dreams and childhood innocence are destroyed because of wars and certain aggressors,” she added.
“Breath” is competing in the 34th Fajr International Film Festival, which opens today at Tehran’s Charsu Cineplex. It is also scheduled to be screened today at the Iranian Film Market on the sidelines of the event.
Bahar in the film represents about 3000 children killed during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq, which is called the Sacred Defense in Iran.
Abyar, who wrote the screenplay based on her novel of the same title, called the film unique in subject and said that Iranian cinema has been silent on the subject of the children killed in the war so far.
“Many innocent children were killed in the war, but our films have not dealt with the subject,” she stated.
Certain people have accused Abyar and producer Mohammad-Hossein Qasemi, who is also her husband, of undermining the Sacred Defense by this film and their previous movie “Track 143”, which is about the great maternal sacrifice in the war.
Abyar said that she does not understand the reasons behind their objections and added, “A country, a dictator imposed the war on us at that time, and we defended ourselves. Now, we should show the trauma and the upshot of that aggression.”
“Our country has always been accused of warmongering, while we ourselves are a victim of others’ warmongering attitudes and my film expresses this fact,” she noted.
She said that the objections will never make her cautious about selecting subjects for her next films.
The “Breath” production crew spent months looking for the children starring the film and finally, Sareh Nur-Musavi, who portrays Bahar, and three other children were selected from among about 2000 people who did auditions for the project.
Abyar described working with children as “a difficult and simultaneously sweet experience” and said that she is satisfied with her choice.
“Children have certain abilities, which may help a filmmaker get brilliant acting from them,” she said.
To picture Bahar’s imagination and dreams, Abyar used 2D animations directed by Hossein Jamshidi-Gohari and Amin Haqshenas.
“We used simple animated pictures to get really close to children’s imaginations, their world, and the paintings they draw,” Abyar said.
“Breath” won the Golden Simorgh for Best Film with National View at the 34the Fajr Film Festival held in Tehran during February.
The film also brought Shabnam Moqaddami the Crystal Simorgh for best supporting actress.