The Blackboard (Iran)
Samira Makhmalbaf, 2000
Why was the film shot in Kurdistan? And where did the idea first come from?
My last movie was produced in Tehran. Tehran is a part of Iran. Kurdistan is also a part of Iran at this time. My next movie will take place in another part of Iran, including Baluchistan, to make this movie. My father accompanied me in my trip to Kurdistan. We walked through many arduous paths and everything my father saw on the way reminded him of a story that could easily have been made into a movie. Among the stories my father told me, this was the one I chose. The story of the wandering teachers of a school destroyed by bombs, who carry their blackboards on their back wandering around and looking for students, and not finding any.
After making “The Apple”, a film that mostly takes place in a house and an alley, how did you end up making a big budget production like this?
Each story requires a different makeup . “The Apple” did not need to be a big budget production, and “The Blackboard” could not have been made with just three or four actors. What’s more, after the appreciation “The Apple” received all over the world, a high amount of energy built up inside me. This internal energy was looking for a way to get out.
The name “Halabcheh” is mentioned in the movie. Where is Halabcheh, and how did the bombardment they talk about in the movie, take place?
Halabcheh is a city in Iraq, situated close to the Iranian border. The Iraqi government used chemical bombardment to repress the Iraqi Kurds.the movie “The Blackboard” was shot near Halabcheh, on the Iran-Iraq border. The landmines planted in that area during war have never been removed and one of our problems during production was to know where we can walk and where there are no landmines. We regularly received information from the local villagers on the safe lands to walk on.
Is this movie also the story of the different generations of Iranians?
Yes, We see three generations in this movie. One is the young generation which is fertile and productive, but the older generations have done little for them and they have to do dangerous things every day to make ends meet. They like to learn, but that is not one of their choices. The second generation is the middle one: the teachers. They try to teach and benefit the two other generation from their knowledge and experience, but do not succeed. The third generation is the one with no patience to hear what the second generation has to say. It is too late for them to change. They walk their own path. Bitter recollections hurt their common memory and they walk their own path. The older generation is more patriotic than the two younger ones. They have reached the end of their lives, and just like a flock of fish in the Pacific Ocean heading to their birthplace when they reach the end of their lives, these old men leave Iran and go to Iraq to die where they were born.
The old Iraqi men leave Iran and go to Iraq, to die where they were born. When did they come to Iran?
They took refuge in Iran during the eight-year-old Iran-Iraq war, to escape the chemical bombardments.
Where do the teenagers come from, and where do they go?
Every morning, they cross the Iranian border and illegally enter Iraq, and smuggle something back in to Iran on the same day. To earn in of to make it through the day, they play with their lives everyday.
To what extent is this story true?
This story is something between reality and fiction. Smuggling, being homeless, and people’s efforts to survive are all part of reality. Even in the case of the insane woman, I was inspired by the story of one such woman who had killed her husband. I took the actress to that woman, so she could be inspired to act like her. My brother Maysam has filmed behind the scenes of “The Blackboard”, and in his film he clearly shows how an insane countrywoman is both my inspiration for creating the character and the actress’s inspiration for playing the part.