Student's short film predicts a long career

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One of the best films I saw at Cannes earlier this month lasts all of 21 minutes and was shot last summer in Chicago by an Iranian writer-director of quiet but enormous talent.

Anahita Ghazvinizadeh's "Needle" concerns a 6th-grader, played by Florence Winners, taken by her mother to get her ears pierced by her (temporarily?) estranged doctor father. It's a beautiful, simple and grimly funny depiction of how marital strife sends emotional shrapnel flying directly into those who are simply trying to get through another argument alive.

I talked to Ghazvinizadeh last week in Cannes, on a fifth-floor balcony at the Palais du Festivals building, after she learned she'd won the 15,000-euro first prize award in the festival's Cinefondation short film competition.

With a two-year studio arts degree in her backpack, she graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago the day before she flew to France. The 23-year-old filmmaker said her parents are not divorced, but "there were situations like this, when they were not living together. So part of it, yes, is my personal experience."

She hooked into the central metaphor of the piece watching YouTube videos shot on cellphone cameras by parents of young girls getting ear-gunned. "Needle," she said, isn't "meant to be told from the girl's point of view, but rather I would say her point of feeling. I actually hate POV shots in general! The film tries to stay close to her, though, the way she's feeling."

Ghazvinizadeh has another short film in mind, the third in a trio of movies about children and parents, which she may shoot this year in Chicago before taking up residency in Houston this fall in order to write a feature-length script to be shot in Iran. There are visa issues to be worked out in the meantime, she says.

"I have a lot of artist friends in Chicago now," she says, smiling. Whatever comes of her career, wherever it flowers, the Cannes Cinefondation prize guarantees the debut of her first feature-length project, in one category or another, at a future edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Patio to the rescue

Last week Portage Theater owner Eddie Carranza closed the doors on the Portage Park venue indefinitely, sending one of the chief tenants, the Northwest Chicago Film Society, into relocation mode. In the short term: At 8 p.m. Wednesday, the society will present a 35-millimeter print of the rare 1929 British science-fiction feature "High Treason" at the Patio Theater, not far from the Portage.

The actual reels of actual film are coming from the Library of Congress; it's a restored print of the 1930 sound version. Inspired by "Metropolis," little known and even less widely circulated, director Maurice Elvey's pacifist cautionary tale takes place in a Prohibition-hobbled 1940, pitting the "United States of Europe" against the "Empire of the Atlantic States" in a brink-of-mass-destruction scenario only the so-called Peace League can prevent.

Back in the day the New York Times may not have liked it, but good old pseudonomynous Mae Tinee of the Chicago Daily Tribune declared it "daring and imaginative" and noted also that the movie wasn't above "slinging some sex appeal bait." In 1930 the Production Code was a document more liquid than solid. Therefore the film, according to the Tribune, affords "the sight of shapely Peacemakers in their undies and that of (the leading lady) in her bath."

 

For more information, go to northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.

mjphillips@tribune.com

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