WHERE IS THE FRIEND’S HOUSE? (Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?)

(director/writer: Abbas Kiarostami; cinematographer: Farhad Saba; editor: Naamet Allah Alizadah; cast: Babak Ahmedpour (Ahmed), Ahmed Ahmedpour (Mohamed Reda Nematzadeh), Kheda Barech (Teacher), Iran Outari (Mother), Ait Ansari (Father); Runtime: 83; Farabi Cinema Foundation; 1987-Iran)

“Kiarostami’s relentless pursuit is poetically evocative.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A young northern Iranian schoolboy, Ahmed, wishes to return a school notebook to his rural classmate who is threatened with expulsion if he does not bring to school a lost notebook. The problem is that the student lives in the next village and Ahmed does not know his address. How he gets the notebook to his friend’s house, turns out to be an odyssey of great human endeavor for this 8-year-old. He must get help from the adults he meets on his way. Ahmed has to overcome his mother’s harsh outlook on life, his grand-father’s caustic perception of how to raise a child, his strict school teacher, and the strangers he meets who are unconcerned with his problem.

That Ahmed goes on to the next village, despite warnings of not to go, is a metaphor for how a childlike curiosity and a refreshing innocence is the essential ingredient needed, that is, if change is ever to come to a society that is stagnant. The narrowness of life and the barren landscape are excellent props for the director’s vibrant themes, shot without professional actors and done in a low-key, realistic-style. The dramatic aims are set too low to say this is a great film. Especially when you compare it to Satyajit Ray’s similar styled Apu trilogy. But this is still great cinema, something American filmmakers would be wise to observe. Kiarostami is not afraid to let his camera follow his student around in real time, so we get an ominous feeling of what the journey was like. Kiarostami’s relentless pursuit is poetically evocative, depicting life in its raw elements, nailing down the fears a child has. But if it was me, I would have avoided the trek and given my classmate his notebook in school the next day.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”