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For this month, I chose Abbas Kiarostami's 2002 film Ten. In light of the loss of one of cinema's great directors, as well as the current tumultuous political climate and the perception of Muslims, exploring an Iranian film centered on the plight and turmoil of ordinary people feels appropriate. I recently came back from a short-term mission trip (if that's what one could call it) from Dearborn, MI, where the largest concentrated population of Muslims in America reside. We took a group of high school teenagers to listen and learn, to extend a hand and love our Muslim neighbors in Christ. It was an eye-opening experience for me, mostly revealing how ignorant I am of others' cultural and religious practices, as well as how complex and tenuous the Muslim/Christian relationship has been throughout history. Ten is a compilation of ten scenes from the perspective of two cameras mounted on the dashboard of a car. Each scene begins with a new passenger entering the car, driven by an unnamed driver portrayed by Iranian actress and director Mania Akbari. The rest of the cast are mainly non-professionals and also remain mostly unnamed, apart from her son Amin, played by Akbari's real-life son. Episodic and intimate, the film gives the viewer privy to the drama and tension of everyday life in Iran, particularly from a woman's perspective--apart from Amin, all of the passengers are female. Watching the film, I was reminded both of Farhadi's A Separation and Jafar Panahi's Taxi. Ten feels like a precursor to both of those films, and makes me wonder if either Farhadi or Panahi had Kiarostami in mind when crafting their own stories. I'm relatively new to Kiarostami--I'd only seen Certified Copy and Close-Up before Ten. Those films also explored the question What is truth? through enigmatic and experimental forms, but Ten is the most accessible and straightforward of the films I've seen. A theme worth noting and exploring is the difference between selfishness and self-differentiation, and how one's cultural and religious beliefs inform the boundaries between those two postures. Kiarostami filmed a follow-up documentary to Ten called 10 on Ten, which played at Cannes in 2004 (you can find it on Fandor or in sections on YouTube). Mania Akbari, the main character in Ten, also made her own sequel of sorts, called 10 + 4, which seems to use the same dashboard camera premise, but the main character is also suffering from cancer, and eventually ends up a passenger, unable to continue driving the vehicle (I can't find the film online, but here's an essay describing the film's approach). I'll wait for further posts and observations to emerge before revealing more of my own perspective of Ten, but here are a few questions and ideas to consider as you watch: 1. What is happening in the background, outside the car? Does it matter, or is the focus/reality of the film only within this car's interior? 2. The unnamed driver takes on postures of both speaker and listener--which seems more comfortable for her? 3. Is this film pro-marriage or anti-marriage? (I just watched The Lobster this weekend, and one could ask the same question of that film.) Here are some helpful links: IMDB. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Streaming on Fandor. Roger Ebert's two-star review, noted by Brian D in the other thread, with a relevant quote which could prompt discussion: A&F thread on Kiarostami's passing. A&F thread on Iranian cinema. Update: Currently streaming on Mubi, but only for the next 3 days.