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Docunight

#23: ABC Africa

Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
2001 / 83 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

“Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, the one that has stayed most strongly with me is Abbas Kiarostami’s ABC Africa.”
– Martin Scorsese

“Taking pictures of other people, whether they are suffering or celebrating, is a complex undertaking, even though (or perhaps precisely because) the act of pointing a camera and pressing a button is so simple. Mr. Kiarostami’s genius is to capture both the simplicity and the complication. The richness and emotional impact of ’‘ABC Africa” comes partly from the balance it achieves between the director’s personality (he appears occasionally, middle-aged, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses and rarely without a camera) and his vast, terrible subject. He never pretends to have mastered the subject – the film’s title suggests the elementary state of his knowledge – or to be able to solve Uganda’s problems by observing them. But you come away from his film overwhelmed, hopeful and, perhaps paradoxically, illuminated.“
– A. O. Scott, The New York Times

Over the course of a ten-day visit to Uganda, Abbas Kiarostami uses his camera to capture and caress the faces of a thousand orphans. Although a documentary about the ravages of AIDS and civil war in Uganda may seem at first like a radical departure, one of the most remarkable things about ABC Africa is the way that Iran’s most celebrated auteur makes such unlikely material very much his own.

In true Kiarostami style, an impressionistic, deceptively simple record of a journey becomes the film itself. This striking visual poem is full of echoes from his oeuvre: the hypnotic tracking shots from car windows, the dirt-road villages, the majestic landscapes and, above all, the emphasis on the resilience and resourcefulness of children.

Alternately heartbreaking and optimistic, ABC Africa records a people struggling to survive. Filled with laughter and music, and pulsing with life, Kiarostami’s vision attests to Africa’s sunny spirit