Blackboards (Iran, 2000, 85 mins.): At the age of 17, New Wave Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf directed her first film, The Apple, which was chosen for the prestigious Un Certain Regard series at the Cannes Film Festival. During her second visit to Cannes in 1999, Makhmalbaf's second feature film, Blackboards (Takhté siah), garnered the coveted Jury Prize, an award she won again in 2003 for At Five in the Afternoon. Blackboards depicts the struggles of a group of itinerant teachers who wander the mountainous region of Kurdish Iran searching for children to teach. The film is peppered with surreal imagery: teachers traveling through harsh landscapes with immense blackboards strapped to their backs and potential pupils working as "mules" and smuggling televisions and other cumbersome contraband across the border. Remarkably, the basic classroom apparatus of the film's title functions as both an educational tool and a life-saving device, as the teachers transform their blackboards into makeshift shields, stretchers, and bomb-shelters. Like all of Makhmalbaf's films, Blackboards is a bravely subversive fable that comments on her nation's post-revolutionary political climate. Blackboards is also proof of the filmmaker’s willingness to take tremendous personal risks; just as her subjects take great risk to educate their students, the filmmaker completed perilous shooting along the conflict-ridden Irani-Iraqi border in order to bring this story to her viewers. The International Film Series presents Blackboards as a complement to UNC's 2009/10 First Year Book, Greg Mortenson and David Relin's Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time. Both Blackboards and Three Cups of Tea focus on teachers who believe that education can truly transform the lives of their students. The IFS will also host a discussion during which viewers and readers can examine the parallels between these two compelling narratives. More information about this even will be posted in late September. For information, please contact April Miller, Director of Film Studies.
Synopsis by April Mller