A new-wave masterpiece of the post-revolution cinema, the film is often praised for having one of the best child performances of all time with Madjid Nirumand.
Inspired by Naderi’s own childhood, the film follows an illiterate, but resourceful, 11-year-old orphan (Nirumand), who lives alone in an abandoned tanker in the Iranian port city of Abadan. He survives by shining shoes, selling water and diving for deposit bottles thrown overboard by foreigners, while being bullied by adults and older kids. But he finds solace by dreaming about departing cargo ships and airplanes and by running, seemingly to nowhere.
Nirumand’s performance in “The Runner” was named #12 in a list of “The 25 Greatest Child Performances in Cinema History” on the film site Taste of Cinema. The Los Angeles Times called it “the greatest performance ever given by a child.”
The lineup for the MFAH Festival of Films from Iran also consists of five other films, including “The Apple Day” by Mahmud Ghaffari and “Destiny” by Yaser Talebi.
In the acclaimed drama “The Apple Day”, first-grader Mehdi’s father is an apple seller in Tehran. Mehdi’s school teacher asks each student to bring objects for each letter of the alphabet. Medhi is assigned to bring 30 apples to school, but when his father’s truck is stolen, the family is thrown into despair and circumstances require desperate measures. With almost documentary realism, the film magically transforms a particular story into one with universal symbolism.
The film won the Liv Ullmann Peace Prize for feature film at the 2022 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
“Destiny” follows 18-year-old Sahar who is left in charge of her poor, mentally challenged father in an isolated village in Iran after the death of her mother. Sahar dreams of attending university and becoming a doctor, but the extended family insists she plays the role of caregiver unless her father remarries. This warm and intimate observational documentary captures a young woman caught between traditional gender roles and her desire for self-determination, volleyball and Instagram.
The festival, which will be held at the Asia Society Texas Center and Rice Cinema, will run through January 29.