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World Cinema Series 12 March: The Cow / Gaav

What The Cow / Gaav
When 12 March 2013 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
Where National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897

FREE for SFS Members or Reel Card holders. Get your free ticket by flashing your membership card at the SFS desk at the theatre entrance. You may ask for up to 2 more tickets for your guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up at the SFS desk -- we will issue membership on the spot. Free seating.



Director: Dariush Mehrjui
1969 / Iran / 100 min / 35mm / Rating TBC
In Persian with English subtitles

A landmark in Iranian cinema, The Cow is often looked upon as the genesis of the Iranian New Wave. The film was released over twenty years before the more well-known films by Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, 1990), Majid Majidi (Children of Heaven, 1997) and Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, 1995) came into the consciousness of filmgoers.  

The story focuses on a simple villager, Hassan, and his relationship with his prized possession, the only cow in the village. When Hassan, who is dependent financially and emotionally on the animal, goes away on a visit to town, the cow dies mysteriously. The other villagers decide to bury it, and tell Hassan that it has fled. An incredulous Hassan goes insane and while taken to town for treatment, commits suicide.  

The Cow is significant in a number of ways. While art cinema was in existence in Iran from the 1960s (a notable example is Forough Farrokhzad’s The House is Black, 1961), The Cow is amongst the first Iranian films to unite artistic impetus with a social backdrop. The unlikely amalgamation of neo-realism and surrealistic tendencies in the film gave birth to a poetic vision that is startling in its originality and extraordinary in its depiction of life.  

The film was banned by the Ministry of Culture and Art under the Shah of Iran, the official censorship body in Iran, on the grounds that it presents a dark and pessimistic view of Iranian rural society. However, the film was smuggled to the Venice Film Festival by director Dariush Mehrjui where it garnered international attention and praise. Officials finally retracted the ban by insisting on the inclusion in the credits that state the events in the film took place forty years ago.  

When it was finally released in Iran, the film had a modest run. It met with unanimous acclaim by the Iranian critics and intellectuals of the time, while it was practically ignored by the commercial filmmaking circles. In 1979, The Cow was singled out by the leader of the Islamic Revolution as the only good example of Iranian cinema during the Shah’s regime. It is important to note that this proclamation was made in the midst of absolute turmoil within the Iranian film circle, where the entire industry was at a standstill due to the volatile political climate. In a sense, The Cow paved the way for the continuation of the Iranian film industry through a period of adversity and leading to its “re-discovery” in the 1990s. 


Dariush Mehrjui

Born in Tehran in 1939, Dariush Mehrjui left for California to study cinema but graduated with a philosophy degree from UCLA. His second feature, The Cow (1969), brought him national and international recognition and signaled the emergence of the Iranian New Cinema. Banned by the Shah’s censors, the film was smuggled to the 1971 Venice Film Festival where it received the Critics Award. As an Iranian New Wave cinema icon, Mehrjui is regarded to be one of the intellectual directors of Iranian cinema. Most of his films are inspired by literature and adopted based on Iranian and foreign novels and plays. From 1992, Mehrjui started his female-character films: four films made in six years all dealt with the female characters and their obsessions in the urban social context. Dariush Mehrjui’s films have already received 49 national and international awards.