Two transportive and uniquely challenging gems await you in kinos this month, taking you on journeys both physical and metaphysical.
Khorshid (Sun Children) – Majid Majidi
The first comes courtesy of Iranian director Majid Majidi. Khorshid (Sun Children) introduces us to a group of young rapscallions who are tasked by a local crime boss to dig for unspecified hidden treasure buried under a school. The gang of street kids, led by 12-year-old Ali (Rouhollah Zamani), must enrol as students in the Sun School in order to achieve their mission, not knowing whether they will reap the rewards promised to them once the bounty has been recovered.
Majidi’s film balances thrills with looming threats that lurk around every corner
This spin on a race-against-time heist drama goes deeper than its barebones premise: dedicated to the “152 million children forced into child labour, and all those who fight for their rights”, it’s a Dickensian adventure that explores the plight of the exploited to better condemn the abusive practices of child labour, as well as shine a light on how an alarming number of Iranian children aren’t afforded the right to basic education.
At times reminiscent of old-school live-action Disney movies, Majidi’s film deftly balances thrills with looming threats that lurk around every corner: moments of joy are corroded by the reminder of the unrelenting realities of life in Iranian society. Even if Sun Children doesn’t quite achieve the same impact as Majidi’s Children of Heaven (1997) – the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film – it does boast the talents of a largely non-professional cast who are all breathtakingly good and outshine some of the script’s overly didactic moments. What remains is a bittersweet adventure that both entertains and opens your eyes.
Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
From the harsh realities of Tehran to trippy Colombia, where Thai arthouse filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul stuns you into an enigmatic and immersive dirge.
Memoria, which shared Cannes’ Jury Prize with Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee last year, is Weerasethakul’s English language debut. It sees Colombia-based expat Jessica (Tilda Swinton) awoken by a deafening sound. She describes this sonic explosion as both “a ball of concrete hitting a metal wall surrounded by seawater” and “a rumble from the core of the Earth”. More disturbingly, only she can hear it. Plagued by this aural disturbance, she seeks the help of Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego), a sound engineer who attempts to digitally engineer a recreation of her auditory hallucination, and an older man also called Hernán (Elkin Diaz), who has the mystical capacity to tap into the past’s vibrations. Is this mysterious sound the manifestation of colonialist sins, or of lost memories aching to be recovered?
Memoria plays out more like a metaphysical fever dream
Memoria is a hard film to adequately capture in words – the end result plays out more like a metaphysical fever dream than a movie shackled to a linear narrative. Anyone familiar with Weerasethakul’s filmography (the Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Cemetery of Splendour) won’t be surprised to learn that the meditative lyricism and ethereal logic at the heart of his oeuvre are out in full force in Memoria. The languorous and poetic aura present in his films is not always easy to embrace and his latest won’t resonate with audiences who yearn for clear resolutions. However, those titillated by the sound of a sensory and trippy odyssey about displacement and existence will be treated to a cinematic experience unlike anything you’ll see (or hear) all year.
- Khorshid (Sun Children) ★ ★ ★ ★ Starts: May 5 D: Majid Majidi (Iran, 2020), with Rouhollah Zamani, Ali Ghabeshi, Shamila Shirzad.
- Memoria ★ ★ ★ ★ Starts: May 5 D: Api- chatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand, Colombia, 2021), with Tilda Swinton, Juan Pablo Urrego, Elkin Diaz.