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Baran (2001) PG
baran     Set in a construction site in present-day Tehran, Baran tells the story of a 17-year-old Iranian worker, Latif, who loses his job to an illegally hired female Afghan worker. The boy is forced into harder labor on the site, but a sudden twist -- his confession that he's irresistibly drawn to the young Afghan -- gives him a completely different view of their lives and changes his outlook on people forever.

The Blue Kite (1993) NR
    This critically acclaimed award-winner, banned in China for its harshly realistic portrayal of life under Chairman Mao, is an epic look at recent Chinese history and how politics affect personal lives. The film follows young Tietou growing up in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, watching colleagues denounce each other and neighbors spy on one another. Soon, Tietou's family and friends -- and even Tietou -- get caught in the violent upheaval.

Children of Heaven (1999) PG
children of heaven     A delightful Iranian movie about a boy who accidentally loses his sister's shoes and must share his own sneakers with her in a sort of relay while each attends school at different times during the day. Finally, the boy enters a much-publicized foot race, hoping to place third. The prize: a new pair of sneakers. Directed by respected filmmaker Majid Majidi, Children of Heaven is just that -- heavenly.

Color of Paradise (1999) PG
    Eight years old and blind, Mohammed (Moshen Ramezani) returns home from school for the summer after nearly being abandoned by his widower father (Hossein Mahjub). Mohammed savors the country (special sound effects capture his acute sense of hearing), but warm days and wildflowers have no effect on his father's mood. Believing his blind son will ruin his chance to remarry, Mohammed's father needs no less than a miracle to have a change of heart.

Crimson Gold (2004) NR
crimson gold     When Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin) finds a receipt for a necklace in a stolen purse, he's flabbergasted by the large sum of money. He knows that his miniscule salary will never be enough to afford such luxury. What's more, he's sick of the hypocrisy of a social system that makes people like him (on the lower rungs) feel like an outcast. But all that is about to change -- at least for one night.

The First Letter (2003) NR
    This fictionalized autobiographical coming-of-age story by Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili takes place in pre-revolutionary 1970s Iran, when Jews made up 15 percent of the population and some Jewish parents sent their children to Koranic schools. Jalili?s alter ego is Emkan, an outgoing 16-year-old student whose Koran study class begins with the Abjad, or ritual recital of the alphabet. Next to him sits Maassoum, a Jewish girl whose father owns the local cinema.

At Five in the Afternoon (2003) NR
    Internationally acclaimed director Samira Makhmalbaf's newest feature is an exquisitely crafted portrait of exile and longing set amidst the ruins of post-Taliban Kabul. A devout old coachman searches for shelter to protect his family and waits for his lost son to return from Pakistan. The film centers around the coachman?s daughter, who chafes under his old-world values and dreams of becoming Afghanistan's future president.

The Girl in the Sneakers (1999) NR
    Forbidden love between two Iranian teens fuels ill will from their parents and a strict interpretation of Islamic law in this incisive -- and poetic -- view of young love. Forbidden by her parents to ever see her boyfriend Aideen again, headstrong Tadaie runs away from home and searches the teeming streets of Tehran to find him.

Hamoun (1990) NR
hamoun     Filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui paints a moving portrait of love gone bad in this drama about the cerebral Hamid, a graduate student struggling to finish his Ph.D. thesis. His wife is no longer enamored of him, and Hamid fails to understand how he's come to this unfortunate intersection in life. He sets about trying to excavate the remains of his relationship so he can finally understand how it all went wrong.

In This World (2003) R
    Two Afghan cousins (16-year-old Jamal and his older cousin Enayet) become refugees and embark on a clandestine overland odyssey that takes them from Pakistan to London in this gripping documentary film from director Michael Winterbottom. The highlight of the tough, mean journey is when Jamal and a friend stow away underneath the chassis of a French truck that links up with a freight train headed for the U.K.

Kandahar (2001) NR
kandahar     Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf lenses this haunting drama that was shot during the Taliban era. The movie follows an Afghani-Canadian woman as she attempts to enter Afghanistan in search of her depressed sister. Since it's illegal for a woman to travel alone in Afghanistan, she must rely on the kindness of strangers, including a scrappy boy and a mysterious American doctor.

Leila (2000) NR
    Reza and Leila, a young couple recently married, discover that Leila is unable to conceive. Invoking tradition, Reza's mother convinces her daughter in-law that Reza must, out of necessity, take a second wife to produce an heir.

Mama's Guest (2004) NR
ten     Veteran director Mehrjui proves to be a master of the ensemble comedy in this story of one family?s attempt to throw an impromptu banquet for a newly married nephew, which evolves into a chaotic operation involving the whole neighborhood. The mother in question is anxious to receive her guests in a proper, Iranian fashion, while her husband, a film buff who has recently been laid off from his work, raises mischief at every turn and almost bungles her plans.

Maryam (2002) NR
    It's 1979 and Mary, an Iranian-American teenager, pursues fun and romance in the New Jersey suburbs. Mary's world is radically transformed, though, when Ali, her fundamentalist Muslim cousin, comes to live with her family at the same time that Americans are taken hostage in Iran. American backlash against Iranians and Ali's disclosure of the family's dark history force Mary to come to terms with her own unique, culturally-divided identity.

The May Lady (2000) NR
    This drama set in late-1990s Iran closely examines the universal tension between motherhood, womanhood and professional life. Frough, a documentary filmmaker and divorced mother, is involved in a new relationship -- but her teenage son resents the presence of another man in her life. As Frough interviews women from all walks of life for a TV report on "exemplary mothers," she begins to do some serious soul-searching about her own priorities.

Osama (2003) PG-13
osama     This stunning film, the first to be made in a post-Taliban Afghanistan and inspired by a newspaper account read by director Siddiq Barmak, recounts the efforts of a family of women to survive under an oppressive regime. To eke out a meager living, they dress up their 12-year-old girl, Osama, as a boy so she can work. A talented cast of non-actors -- including Marina Golbahari and Zubaida Sahar -- adds integrity to the heartbreaking story.

Taste of Cherry (1997) NR
    A middle-aged man drives through the outskirts of Tehran in search of someone to rescue him or bury him. An emotionally complex meditation on life and death. Winner, 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Ten (2002) NR
taste of cherry     Mania Akbari and Amin Maher star in this foreign feature from Zeitgeist Films. Shot only from two camera angles in a cramped car, Ten tracks the conversations exchanged between an Iranian woman and a handful of unique characters she drives to and from Tehran.

Wedding in Galilee (1988) NR
    The elder of a Palestinian village in Israel seeks and is granted permission to hold a traditional wedding for his son on one condition: that the Israeli military governor and his staff be guests of honor at the ceremony. In director Michel Khlefi's first feature, two disparate cultures come together (and set aside their complex differences) for one day of bipartisan celebration.

The Wind Will Carry Us (2000) NR
    This film's abstract, symbolic plot follows a man named Behzad and two of his colleagues as they travel from Tehran, Iran, to the tiny village of Siah Dareh, located on a dry, barren mountainside. There they observe the harsh life and everyday activities of the villagers. Technology -- or the lack thereof -- figures prominently in this film, which is considered director Abbas Kiarostami's most socially critical work.