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Looking At Tazieh - EIF 2008

The Hub
4 stars
A magic carpet covers the upstairs floor of The Hub. As you pull up a cushion before two large screens which flank a smaller one at one end of the room, the trumpet and percussion soundtrack wheezes into life and you instinctively remove your shoes. On the smaller screen in colour, some kind of roughshod performing area has been set up on a football field size area of grass. On the big screens, in black and white, close-ups of faces in a crowd wait for something to happen. With each screen divided by gender, the camera lingers on every line and facial tic, some wizened by age, others wide-eyed with curiosity, before the sort of voice-over used on trailers for ancient biblical epics welcomes us to Tazieh.

Tazieh is an ancient Persian spectacle in remembrance of Iman Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed. Film-maker Abbas Kiarostami’s film installation gives us a hint of the scale and power of such events that are part historical re-enactment, part sacred rite, bad civic function microphone technique and all. What emerges on the small screen as the death of Iman is replayed on horseback to the sound of wailing voices is striking enough, but the eye is constantly drawn to the astonishingly expressive faces towering above them. Then, mesmerised, the on-screen audience pat their hearts in sorrow and let rip a remarkable display of mass lamentation. Tears flow naturally and without any show. A man who looks like Popeye’s arch nemesis Bluto weeps like a baby. More than mere anthropology, this astonishing display of wordless poetry is a humbling portrait of a culture at one with its sense of grief.

The Herald, August 18th 2008

ends

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