Kiarostami’s famous drama Where Is the Friend's Home? opens his Koker trilogy set in the Iranian village of the same name and which transparently mixes document and invention, film and the reality of its making. Two years after its release, this moving story about childhood and coming of age grew into the documentary Homework about the clash between the child and the system.
In Where Is the Friend's Home?, a boy named Ahmed comes home from school and discovers that he has mistakenly taken the notebook of his classmate Mohammed. Knowing that Mohammed can get expelled if he does not use his notebook and against his mother’s orders, Ahmed searches for his classmate in the nearby village. Unable to find his friend, Ahmed is faced with indifference on the part of adults at every step. Although it starts as a typical story of initiation, Where Is the Friend's Home? is a false odyssey, as, on his journey, Ahmed does not perform any “great deeds.” However, in the incredible last minutes of the film, Kiarostami shows that true greatness resides in simple acts of compassion and solidarity.
The international premiere of Where Is the Friend's Home? took place at Locarno, where it won a Bronze Leopard and made Kiarostami an internationally acclaimed director. Shortly after the film, Kiarostami left the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (Kanun) and developed his mature style, less dependent on Iranian institutional support.
According to Kiarostami, Homework, Where Is the Friend's Home? and First Graders together make a single film. In Homework, he destroys the fourth wall at the very start, when children come up to the camera and ask him about the title of his film in which they will be featured. A colleague asks if it is a fiction film, and Kiarostami stammers, “docu… I don’t know. It’s more of a study of homework using images than a film.” Kiarostami interviews the students of a school for boys to understand which material conditions lead to them failing to do their homework. Most children admit that there are too many in their family, and their parents cannot read or write or are simply too tired after work to help with homework.
The sometimes heart-wrenching interviews point to the key issues in the Iranian society of the time, including the absence of a dialogue between generations and violence at home. All the boys know what a punishment is (one is so used to it that he starts crying thinking that the filmmaker is planning to give him a spanking), but almost none have heard of rewards. Children in this film are pressured by an authoritarian system and religion integrated into the learning process, as well as by the ghost of the war with Iraq: their morning exercise is accompanied by a chant about “destroying the people of Saddam.” Although Kiarostami offers no comment, acting primarily as an attentive director, his views are echoed in the passionate monologue of a new student’s father, who has lived in other countries and studied their education systems well enough to demand reform and better schooling conditions in Iran.
The film will be screened in Persian with Russian subtitles.
Where Is the Friend's Home?
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Iran, 1987. 83 min. 6+
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Iran, 1989. 86 min. 6+