Gabbeh (1996)
Mohsen Makhmalbaf

“Life is colour”

GabbehA co-production of the French and the Iranian film industry, Gabbeh (1996) is perhaps the best and most typical starting point for the westerners who would like to get an insight into the cinema of the east. Released in 1996 Gabbeh has managed to enchant the westerners and the Asians alike for not only its artistic merits but also for its subtle exposure of the culture of Iran. The film is centered around a nomadic tribe, which is tightly bound by blood relations. The tribe has its own rituals and beliefs which it passes on for posterity. One such practice is the weaving of carpets for a person depicting the journey of their life. The tribe carries and updates the carpets wherever they go.

The film begins with an old couple who are at the river side washing one such carpet. They envisage a young lady representative of the carpet and converse with her. The young lady has a story to tell- one that of forbidden love. She takes us through her life’s ordeals, her moments of joy, dissatisfaction and sorrow. Representing various emotions, colours play a very important role in the film. These colours blend with the carpet to tell stories of the people it has been with. So do the various landscapes that the tribe wanders through. The animals too, in the film are representative of the oneness of the clan and the alienation of the beloved of the young lady.

Running over just a hour and a quarter, the film is succinct and opts to show what it wants rather than talk. The film opened ways for subsequent Iranian films to reach out to the world and display their artistic and film making abilities. For its poetic direction and striking use of imagery, the film won the Best Artistic Contribution Award in the Tokyo International Film Festival.