Tehran Has No More Pomegranates
Massoud Bakshim’s Tehran Has No More Pomegranates identifies itself as “a musical, historical, comedy, docu-drama, love story, experimental film.” Attempts to classify the film—as a postmodern visual stew, as a sarcastic video collage-portrait, as a half-tribute-half-roast—don’t quite encapsulate the its nuances. This resistance to simple definition also fits the film's subject: the Iranian capital of Tehran.
This portrait of Tehran is not a straightforward, traditional documentary comprised of facts and interviews, and there is no startling revelation about the city around which the documentary is centered. Early in the film viewers are told that the subjects interviewed throughout the footage may seem real, but are not, and that the facts and history provided are "probably inaccurate." Viewers are told the film is not finished, and that the footage they are watching is the research collected for a project that will never come to fruition, a sort of allegorical way to indicate that it is impossible to successfully complete a film that would depict the true realities of Tehran. The film’s greatest accomplishment is not in any one particular subject or goal concerning Tehran; rather, it is the commentary cleverly tucked throughout.
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates dissects the city by comparing old footage and photographs to images from today, bringing into question the true extent of its progress. Women's attire is used by Bakhshim to demonstrate. Garments worn by men and women of the past are shown to the viewer; then the narrator cheerfully moves to address modern clothing, pointing to how men and women have many choices. The camera shows men wearing a variety of clothes and women wearing the veil and scarf, who can be differentiated from each other only by the colors they choose.
Aside from simply comparing and contrasting the present with the past, Tehran Has No More Pomegranates addresses specific issues that beset modern day Tehran, all with a biting sarcasm. Once the film begins to address modern times, the mischievousness reveals itself and the film’s spunky qualities liven up the pace during the search for “Tehran’s biggest problem.” Unfortunately, sardonic humor and history can make confusing partners, and during the first portion of the film, it was difficult to identify the legitimate historical information. The language barrier—the film is in Farsi with English subtitles—combined with my limited knowledge of Iran's history intensified this effect, and the film’s unique approach suffered.
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates is a bit of an inside joke, and a Tehrani will see a different film than someone raised on a farm in rural Wisconsin. He or she will have the benefit of reactions based on personal experiences while the rest of us can only sit back and absorb.
Tehran Has No More Pomegranates treats the title city as one would a beloved scoundrel of a friend. The polluted, overcrowded city is not cast in an entirely despicable light, and there is a constant undertow of familiar love. Without that sense of caring, the sarcastic tones would have fallen as flat as a “your mama” joke to an orphan.