As part of these shenanigans, my grandparents have come for a visit from Iran after a few years and they've brought some pretty terrific DVDs along with them. I use the term "terrific" very loosely, by which what I really mean is cheesy comedies that get the whole family together for a lot of laughs and not much else to mull over. It's been a heck of a lot of fun, to be honest. The most recent one was a film called Cheque by mainstream director Kazem Rastgoftar, starring Iran's most internationally recognizable actor, Homayoun Ershadi and one of my favorite comedians, Farhad Aeesh.
Cheque is one of those films that don't have a hope of ever crossing the border to find an international audience, but it had a lot of clever things to say about modern Iranian society. This type of ensemble comedy has been instrumental in shaping the financial backbone of Iranian cinema for decades now. They come and go and a few years later few people remember them, but for the 2 hours that they play on your screen, they consistently tickle your funny bone. In Cheque, the current financial malaise and the omnipresent, ever-growing schism between the conservatives, the modernists and monarchists take center stage in a story about a random group of four people who have to spend a couple of nights together after an accident gifts them one hefty cheque to cash and split among themselves.
My relationship with Iranian cinema has mostly been limited to arthouse fare and everything that is generally marketed to a global/festival audience, so films like this are a real breath of fresh air, insignificant as they might be for Iranians inside the country. I was unaware of just how prevalent it has become for women to drive taxis in Iran, for instance, but small lessons like this can often be learnt more readily from mainstream films that don't concern themselves with anything other than appealing to the everyman than from festival films. What I really want to say is that while living in Toronto has provided me with the pleasure having access to TIFF, Hot Docs, an array of other festivals and the newest releases year-around, sometimes I just really, really miss watching cheeseballs like this in the theater with my friends. Luckily, there's enough of them lying around my TV to last me a couple of more months, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts; and I'll resume regular blogging when Hot Docs kicks off.