The Films of Ramin Bahrani at the Harvard Film Archive
April 11 - April 12, 2009
Saturday April 11 at 7pm Ramin Bahrani in Person Goodbye Solo Bahrani's latest film tells the story of the friendship that reluctantly grows between an improbable pair- Senegalese taxi driver living and working in North Carolina and an aging curmudgeon who hires the cabbie to leave him on a desolate mountain far out of town without telling him why. Filmed in Bahrani's native Winston-Salem, Goodbye Solo reveals the director's fascination with the increasingly multicultural patterns of American life by focusing on the group dynamic between the African driver, his Mexican girlfriend, her spirited bilingual daughter and the Southern retiree. Buoyed by the irrepressible performance of first time actor Souleymane Sy Savene, Goodbye Solo's intense character study offers a cross between Kiarostamian observation and Cassavetian intensity, marrying two of Bahrani's key influences. Leaving behind the urban grit of Bahrani's two previous films, Goodbye Solo captures an autumnal lyricism that imbues the friendship of the protagonists with a poignant melancholy. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. With Souleymane Sy Savane, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo US 2008, 35mm, color, 91 min. Followed by Backgammon In this early short film, Bahrani already shows his ability to convey character subtly by integrating image and performance. A young Iranian American girl looks to backgammon as a way to get to know her grandfather, recently arrived from Iran. Bahrani uses this simple encounter to illustrate the intersections of family and nationality, the generation gap and cultural difference. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. With Sheema Regimand, Manucher Marzban US 1998, 16mm, color, 10 min. English and Persian with English intertitles Sunday April 12 at 7pm Ramin Bahrani in Person Man Push Cart The compelling story of Bahrani's breakthrough film centers on a haunting avatar of the old world, an immigrant pushcart vendor who rises at dawn to sell coffee and bagels at the foot of Manhattan's corporate towers. Man Push Cart sets out to capture the paradoxes and poetry of 21st century New York City as a place of evocative contrasts, embodied in the Pakistani vendor's mysterious past, gradually revealed to lay worlds away from his Sisyphean life in the streets. Like its lonely hero, Man Push Cart keeps its distance from those characters that represent an easier form of narrative resolution-the love interest, the family, the compassionate fellow immigrant. The film's critical success saw Bahrani immediately labeled as an heir to the neo-realist tradition, a claim supported by Man Push Cart's patient style and its careful, documentary-inspired focus on the grinding rituals that define the vendor's world. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. With Ahmad Razvi, Leticia Dolera, Charles Daniel Sandoval US 2005, 35mm, color, 87 min. Followed by Chop Shop During the filming of Man Push Cart, Bahrani discovered Willets Point, an industrial area in Queens sustained by block upon block jumble of auto body shops. Instantly struck by the neighborhood's rich narrative and visual possibilities -"if Los Olvidados were to be made today and in America, it would be made here" he claimed-Bahrani looked beneath the surface of apparent bleakness to discover a vivid improvised theater of life on the edge. Perhaps inspired by BuÃ±uel's masterpiece, Bahrani focuses his film on a precocious twelve-year old who scavenges and works odd jobs to support himself and his older sister. While the non-professional cast's strong performances give the film an authentic, improvisatory quality, the meticulous planning, scripting and rehearsals behind Chop Shop are revealed in the film's expressive use of the rough hewn auto body shops and the film's carefully sustained tempo. Bahrani's seemingly casual yet delicately precise camerawork allows the film to miraculously retain its naturalism while avoiding any traces of sentimentality. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. With Alejandro Polanco, Isamar Gonzales, Ahmad Razvi US 2007, 35mm, color, 84 min.