The Lives of Lepers in ‘60s Iran: Forough Farrokhzad’s Powerful Film The House is Black

There may be a short film that’s quite as vivid, courageous and intense as poet Forough Farrokhzad’s Khaneh Siyah Ast (The House is Black)—her 1962 portrait of a leper colony in the northwest of her native Iran—but I can’t think of it. Farrokhzad was a Tehran-born female poet born in 1935 to a career military officer and married off to the satiric writer Parviz Shapour at age 16. Farrokhzad divorced Shapour two years later and lost custody of her one-year-old child.

As much as it surfaces the sufferings of a rejected population, the 22-minute Khaneh… (excerpted below) clearly but subtly reflects Farrokhzad’s own attitude about autocratic Iranian society’s disapproval of her as a strong woman poet. The twenty-something scribe weaves her verse in voiceover throughout the footage, and her raw editing style moves agilely between long studies and quick cuts. The film would inspire the Iranian New Wave in cinema that flourished starting in the late’60s.

Farrokhzad would eventually adopt the child of two of the patients in the colony. Unfortunately, she died in a car-crash five years after the film was released, at the age of 32.

Watch: Khaneh Siyah Ast (The House is Black) by Forough Farrokhzad. 1962, 22 minutes B&W 35mm 
Get: Khaneh Siyah Ast (The House Is Black) [DVD]


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment