Fariba: A Decent Life despite the Mishaps

Hamid Benamra*

The process of weaving bright colours of wool and the tales behind it would look great in the camera. This is the state of the film The Knit Doll, for the Iranian director Ezzatollah Parvazeh. The film’s pictures are more beautiful than the Russian matryoshka and the American barbie dolls. Also, the Turkish Karagöz dolls may also get jealous from its protagonist, « Fariba ».

It is the story of Fariba in wonderland. Her body growth stopped due to a shock that her mother had been through during her pregnancy, but her smile has never stopped. Moreover, her dream has been growing for 27 years. She makes her livelihood from the excessive production of woolen dolls.

Fariba in her pram while telling the vendor of the yarns and colors she needs(Al Jazeera)

The opener features a person looking through a car window on their way to train station in the heart of the city. It is followed by a medium take of a woman with gloomy face engulfed with a veil. Her presence is entwined with a strange voice tone, suffering from a tiring existential siege. On the face value, the film seems to be a personal narrative of this woman until the camera shows her daughter Fariba on her lap. It was possible to conclude the film 5 minutes from the film beginning. This is because this type of plot is usually used at the end of short films that use surprise to conclude their stories.

Thus, why does this documentary film use the short feature film mask in its first round despite its realistic events? Was his director looking for a hit lest losing the battle with his viewers? Perhaps with this early surprise scene, he wanted to delude his viewers and make them feel he has got a lot of surprises if we continue watching his film, and we will be rewarded like well-behaved children. Parvazeh did well in presenting his characters as if he was referring to The Morall Philosophie of Doni. He used a great style through which he takes us to a broad and infinite space.

Fariba is not able to walk or to sit; and she views the world from the bottom. She lives in this world from a cinematic perspective where characters are being highlighted. Since everything seems big to Fariba, from the tea cup to the yarn she uses to knit her dolls, so building a place to house her dream seems to be small too.

The Knit Doll reminds us that we play with dolls on daily basis even if their forms and names are different to Fariba’s dolls. These are not hand-made dolls; however, TV presents them well to us. Our relationship with the newscaster, footballer, weather forecast presenter, politician, and model are personal relationships with dolls that we think we own.

With her dream, Fariba is the most realistic one among all of us. She never plays with her knitted dolls. Rather; she sells her product for one sole purpose: Building her own house. She doesn’t care if she is seen as poor or cursed by others as long as her dolls are sold in markets. The film dimensions are beyond its initial documentary intent, because it presents the subject of quality cinema and things needed to produce quality works. That is, good cinema is not limited to the quality of picture and the smoothness of its visual material because the director used the latest camera in the market. We don’t become more romantic or more eloquent by using a golden pen.

Fariba while visiting her under construction house that was made out of sold dolls (Al Jazeera)

The director places Fariba in the bottom corner of the camera frame when customers are around her. However, he uses a totally different frame when she is in her house.

The discreet camera movement from one side to another takes Fariba and those around her into the art of acting even this was against their will. This is because the knitted doll loves the camera and Fariba gets embarrassed to talk for too long on the phone in front of it. She also bragged to the person on the phone about having the film crew in her house.

If the film has all the feature film specifications, how come it was rated as a documentary film? Then her father’s house with its red roof appears between the trees like a scene from a cartoon film. The father is holding firewood on his back and on his face is endless patience. His hands are supernaturally strong despite his broken look. The mother is wandering between the trees and only her face appears with eyes full of sorrow. Meanwhile Fariba is holding colorful yarns as if she is a boy holding his first toy.

With these feature specifications, the film progresses in a reality that has no room for fantasy. This is because everything the camera takes is real and there is no room for exaggeration, as if the director and Fariba were lucky to meet one another. The life of Fariba is a continuing scenario of a series with renewing events every day.

The takes that Parvazeh choose differ with location. The father’s roaming the city with his daughter doesn’t draw the attention straightaway. It does, however, for those who pay more attention to the pram on which Fariba is transported. At the wool vendor, the director places his camera at the shop’s door to sneak at Fariba while choosing her colours without hesitation.

In another take, the chicks surround a chicken while are getting fed. For a moment, we think that they are her children. However, when the works of Fariba are included in the frame in a bad pan move, the film gets artistically imbalanced. Why does the director resort to this cartoon-styled approach in a film with protagonists who don’t need to be prompted while narrating their life story?

Fariba is mad about weaving like spiders, as well as she likes calculations and fair prices. She makes different animals as if she is the daughter of the author of The Morall Philosophie of Doni while talking to the characters of her dad. She confirms her defiance of the love that abandoned her before she came to being. However, she took a new hobby of nail polishing together with her friend. Despite her childish behavior, Fariba exhibits firmness in decision making regarding the construction of her house. The Knit Doll can be watched without listening to the talk or music because the director has a clear vision of his subject.

Parvazeh while receiving his award from Mustafa Swaq, the acting general manager of Aljazeera Network (Al Jazeera)

It is not essential to like the film or Fariba, but we have to recognize well-made films that didn’t take advantage of their weakness. Fariba is a role model for young people who are only watching football news, and they are ageing with every new day.  She sets an example for the love of life because she didn’t go on hunger strike, nor did she sit her body on fire or board the death boats heading to Europe despite she is qualified for that. The Iranian cinema this time appears in a new form and not wholly directed to the European audience.

The Knit Doll doesn’t not praise, cheat, nor is directed towards a certain audience. Rather, it is directed towards our hearts and reminds us of how little we are, and the extent to which a dream may grow regardless to the time and place.

*An Algerian director based in France

Source : Aljazeera

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