Rites of Passage

Once-renowned Iranian filmmaker Bahman Farmanara (Prince Ehtejab) had not made a picture since 1979, when his third film was banned by the post-Revolutionary Censor Board. Now, 23 years later--after moving to North America for a decade, then returning to Iran--he is back making movies. Smell of Camphor so closely mirrors Farmanara's own life that it could almost be a documentary. The writer-director even plays the central character, a 55-year-old filmmaker who has been banned from making films for 20 years. Finally he is permitted to make a documentary about Iranian funeral rites. The film, however, is a front of sorts, because the director has become convinced that he is dying. The climactic scene in the movie will not only be a funeral but his funeral. While the character prepares for the film--and for the death he is sure awaits him--he ruminates about the death of his beloved wife, his mother's drift into Alzheimer's and the stifling effect of fundamentalist Islamic thought on Iranian society. While the story has a definite comedic side to it, the film takes a hard look at what is going on in contemporary Iran. Farmanara, the actor, proves a likable and sympathetic fellow, bringing a real poignancy to the role and, thus, to the story, which seems, more than anything, the tale of a man coming to terms with his life.

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