In 1974, Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, then a 17-year-old fundamentalist rebel working to overthrow the Shah's regime, stabbed a policeman in an effort to steal his gun and served a five-year prison sentence. Twenty years later, he was casting non-actors for a film called Salaam Cinema when the victim, Mirhadi Tayebi, showed up for an open audition. Their surprise reunion sparked the inspiration for Makhmalbaf's startlingly original A Moment Of Innocence, which revisits the incident through a meta-cinematic technique that combines documentary and fiction, then transcends the limitations of both. Makhmalbaf and Tayebi play themselves, each assigned to cast a young man to perform their respective roles in a recreation of that fateful day. After a series of gently comic miscues, the director and the former cop finally settle on their actors and coach them to reenact the event from their particular perspective. At the center of both accounts is a teenage girl (played by Marjam Mohamadamini, the woman's daughter) who would ask Tayebi for the time and directions every day, a gesture he took as romantic while Makhmalbaf considered her an accomplice to his crime. Though its methods lie somewhere between Pirandello and Rashomon, A Moment Of Innocence adds a personal dimension that's uniquely its own, as Makhmalbaf's investigation into the past evolves into a touching act of contrition. On a more universal scale, he questions the use of violence as a catalyst for positive social change. Banned upon its initial release and only now touring America with the director's beautiful The Silence, A Moment Of Innocence is further evidence of Iran's cinematic vitality.
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