Amir Naderi's THE RUNNER is a landmark film and a work of astonishing simplicity and power. Completed in 1985, it was the first important feature to emerge from Iran following the religious protests that resulted in widespread violence and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's seizure of direct
executive powers in 1981. In this hostile landscape Naderi succeeded in making a film of social criticism that is universal in scope.
An orphan lad, Amiro (Madjid Nirumand) lives in an abandoned ship in the port city of Abadan. The city has been ravaged by war with Iraq. This parentless waif tries to eke out an existence in the ruined industrial landscape of the port. Amiro is enlisted by a group of young boys to help gather
the bottles thrown off the ships into the harbor. They are recycled and provide the money for food that is so sorely needed. This task is dangerous as well. There are hoodlums who wish to get a larger share and assault the younger children. Deadly sharks lurk in the water, waiting to pounce on the
young swimmers. Besides collecting bottles, Amiro sells chunks of ice to all comers to cool their drinks in the hot midday sun. When his ice is ripped off by a thieving adult, the chase becomes a frantic race for survival. Still young enough to enjoy playing games with his peers, Amiro is also man
enough to defend his interests.
Amiro is continually on the run, for food and for a better life. His dream is to learn to read and write, but he also dreams of faraway places, scanning foreign magazines with intense interest. Although reality undercuts these dreams, Amiro never gives up. He is never swayed from his course of
self-improvement as he doggedly faces each day. The final sequence of this downbeat story is an exhilarating, nearly surrealistic race. The young boys run with a piece of ice to a container of fire--whoever gets there first before the ice melts is the winner. This becomes a swirling symphony of
ice and fire in the final inspirational moments of the film.
This story of the dispossess youngsters of Iran hovers somewhere between poetry and documentary. All the children contribute inspired performances. Young Madjid Nirumand skillfully reveals the complex interior life of a child who wants to improve his lot by learning to read and write, and then to
go on to a better and more rewarding existence. THE RUNNER bears comparison with the classics of its genre: De Sica's SHOESHINE, Bunuel's LOS OLVIDADOS, Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS and Hector Babenco's PIXOTE. It can be compared but in no way is it derivative. THE RUNNER is wholly distinctive in its
form, differing greatly from the standard Western format.
Amir Naderi was born on August 24, 1945, in Abadan, Iran. He has worked on films for most of his adult life in his native country, having shot inummerable films in Iran. THE RUNNER, written and directed by Naderi, is largely based on his own childhood experiences as well as those of his friends.
The powerful images that emerge were photographed by Firouz Malekzadeh. Original and dynamic, light on dialogue, a film in perpetual motion, it is one of the Third World's contributions to fine cinema, and destined to become a classic.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Amir Naderi's THE RUNNER is a landmark film and a work of astonishing simplicity and power. Completed in 1985, it was the first important feature to emerge from Iran following the religious protests that resulted in widespread violence and Ayatollah Ruholl… (more)