The House is Black

For the fact alone that this was the only film the noted Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad made, The House is Black is worth watching. One of the earliest examples of what’s now known as Iranian New Wave cinema, it’s somewhere between a video essay and a documentary; Farrokhzad’s poetry, and a clinically factual discussion of leprosy, plays over footage of a leper colony in Northern Iran. Its inhabitants, people whose bodies are being whittled away through leprosy, go through the motions of being in a society (there is a school, and in one scene what seems to be a wedding party). It’s a haunting film, in the literal sense, without being voyeuristic. The balance it maintains between being, if not entertaining, then lyrical, and being informative brings to mind the videos the Act Up Movement would later employ in their campaign to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS in the ‘80s. This sets it in a broader context of films which are partly works of activism to raise awareness of, and seek support for, sick and non-normative bodies.

  • Holly Connolly