The Apple

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary, Drama

A disturbing real-life incident serves as the basis of this initially intriguing blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking from 18-year-old Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf. Not long ago, in the poor Tehran suburb of Valiasr, the residents of Hosseini Street sent a signed petition to Iranian Welfare Organization, alerting them to a horrendous situation:...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A disturbing real-life incident serves as the basis of this initially intriguing blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking from 18-year-old Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf. Not long ago, in the poor Tehran suburb of Valiasr, the residents of Hosseini Street

sent a signed petition to Iranian Welfare Organization, alerting them to a horrendous situation: Two neighbors -- a deeply religious street peddler and his blind wife -- have kept their twin 12-year-old daughters prisoners inside their tiny house for their entire lives, locking them in behind iron

gates and denying them all contact with the outside world. Social workers intervened and found the sisters -- Massoumeh and Zahra -- living little better than animals. Barely socialized, they communicated in grunts and half-formed words and hadn't been bathed in years. The story caused a

nationwide sensation and captured the imagination of Makhmalbaf, who immediately decided to turn the story into a film. With a little help from her father, acclaimed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (GABBEH), and the full cooperation of the family and the social worker involved in the case --

who, along with the twins, appear as themselves in the film -- Makhmalbaf has constructed a strange sort of film. She picks up the story as it unfolds, filming the parents as they come to retrieve their daughters from the welfare offices, promising never to lock them in again. But no sooner are

the girls back in their father's house then they're back behind bars, and the film soon drifts out of the realm of straightforward documentary as the non-professional players ad lib their way through unscripted situations of the filmmaker's making. The film is both surprisingly sophisticated and

irritatingly amateurish: Makhmalbaf can cannily place the tragic plight of these two adolescents girls in the larger context of a woman's place in Iranian society with a single shot, while in the very next scene remind us why scripts are written in the first place. (In Farsi, with English

subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A disturbing real-life incident serves as the basis of this initially intriguing blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking from 18-year-old Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf. Not long ago, in the poor Tehran suburb of Valiasr, the residents of Hosseini… (more)

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