CFS: A perfect ‘Ten’ this weekend

Jessica Hopkins

The car: a universal symbol of freedom connected with themes of exploration, independence and escape. This association is often depicted in road movies, as demonstrated in many of the films in this semester’s Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “On the Road.”

Straying from the norm, however, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami resists this popular practice of instilling the automobile with this romantic symbolism. He is fascinated by the car’s effect on the flow of conversation amongst passengers and instead focuses on the simple experience of driving and the insights one gains from this everyday experience.

Set in a car traveling through modern-day Iran, Kiarostami’s 2002 feature, “Ten,” reflects this fascination and demonstrates the intimate conversation that the car’s confines can compel.

Shot with two digital cameras secured on either side of the front seat, the film is comprised of 10 discussions, as the female protagonist, a glamorous 30-something named Mania Akbari, picks up and drops off various passengers while driving through downtown Tehran.

Except for Amin Maher, Akbari’s son, whose presence allows us to explore his mother’s own life choices, all of the characters are women.

They represent various feminine roles and stages in Iranian society, ranging from a neurotic sister to a humorous prostitute. As their personal dramas unfold through jokes and epiphanies, they simultaneously explore themes of identity, lust, sexuality and spirituality.

Although the action takes place in Iran, a society that is foreign to most members of the Western audience, the car and urban setting establish a familiarity between the two vastly different worlds. The ideas presented about women’s place in patriarchal society are understood as universally applicable to all cultures, rather than uniquely Iran’s.

Voted the most popular and respected director of the 1990’s in Film Comment’s 2000 poll, Kiarostami is renowned for his poetic and philosophic vision. His provocative films demand active audience participation and require that they confront stereotypes and question their previous assumptions. His work of the past few decades has altered the West’s negative images of Iran by revealing and focusing on the humanistic aspect of the society. His moving political content is rivaled only by his film’s visual appeal. A master of beautiful compositions, he attributes his artistic perspective to his experience in painting and photography.

To maintain realism, Kiarostami uses few professional actors and relies heavily on improvisation. Interestingly, the featured mother and son are non-actors who are actually related, causing one to question what is performance and what is truth.

“Ten” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else.

The Monday showing only will feature guest speaker Eran Preis, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker and Temple film professor, who will provide an introduction to the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information, call the Communications Department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS web page: