Kamran Heidari’s Ali Agha at UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema


Kamran Heidari creates the genre of his own. His films are new kind of dacudrama and dacufiction, while he never leaves his real characters and real events, he turns them masterfully to an impressive drama.

One of his latest films, Ali Agha, reminds me the Italian Neorealist cinema and specially films like Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D, where the main character in both films are struggling for survival, they are old and they both have a deep affection for their animal companions. Umberto has a hard time to let his little dog go and Ali Agha can’t leave his pigeons.

Ali Agha is an old man living in poverty that has life threatening diabetes,  but his love for his pigeons is so deep that he is ready to sacrifice everything, including his own life to be with them.

It is hard to imagine if any actor in the world could play Ali Agha, and because of his deep fascinations for his birds, he never becomes aware of presence of a camera. He also leads others, such as his wife, his brother in law, his customers and people at the Friday market through discussions, arguments and fights.

Ali Agha is one of the best dacudramas of our time, not only for the amazing way it lets its subject to be themselves on screen, but also for its solid and beautiful structure.

Ali Agha will be screened on May 5, 2019 – 7:00 pm at Billy Wilder Theater as part of UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema.

In short conversation, I asked Kamran Heidari about making of Ali Agha and working with the main subject of the film.

Kamran Heidari: I had a photography project in Friday Bazar about people that sell doves and pigeons. I’ve been taking photos of that place for about 7-8 years each Friday. I met many people owning pigeons who invited me to their rooftops to take photos. I was looking for a character that’s comfortable in front of camera, so I can get close to him to develop his character for telling the story. When I met Ali agha, I went to his rooftop to find out what stories he has in his life. I went there for 10 sessions and I realized that he was quickly became unaware of me and my camera. When he was involved with his life and his birds, he would completely forgot about everything else. His diabetic problems and the way he dealt with it by trying to ignore it, had given a new dimension to his character. Therefore, I decided to work with him. But I didn’t tell him first. I was going to his place to film for three months and at the end of the third month, I was even helping him with his birds, feeding them or cleaning their cages. We had somehow a master-disciple relationship. Then, I asked him about making a documentary and he accepted. I started filming based on the ideas that I had like his diabetic problems, his love for his pigeons, and his ongoing fights with his family members. There were other interesting things in his life, too, but it could be distracting to the story, so I only focused on those 2-3 topics. To them I was just a friend, Kamran, not a filmmaker. My camera was small, and my sound man usually sat at a corner with a distant to everyone and he was very friendly with them as well. All this together made it easy for them to see us as friends not filmmakers. We were going there 4-5 days a week, but they wouldn’t notice the camera even though we were filming.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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