Close Up

16 June 2024: Celluloid Underground followed by Q&A with Ehsan Khoshbakht


Celluloid Underground
Ehsan Khoshbakht, 2023, 80 min

Followed by Q&A with Ehsan Khoshbakht moderated by Ellen Rogers

“While recounting the life of his deceased friend and master Ahmad Jorghanian (an underground film collector in Iran), Ehsan Khoshbakht constructs a self-portrait that takes the form of a dazzling collage, where recordings of the two film buffs’ relationship coexist with fictional insertions, and glimpses of film history fill the gaps of an interrupted tale. As the country becomes an unstable reality after 1979, the film itself also disintegrates, embracing every possible texture, from pristine restorations to video, from gorgeous allegorical analogue to harshly mutilated prints. Jorghanian is a hero, a man who saved pieces of his country’s heritage from erasure by state powers, but he’s also a merchant trying to make a living out of buying and selling prints, an obsessive man-child who doesn’t know how to live outside his basement. Only a true friend could make such a sincere portrait. Celluloid Underground could have been a tribute to “the Iranian Langlois” or a self-indulgent autobiography, but is instead a nightmarish, helpless dive into the life and death of images, devoid of nostalgia or self-heroism. Only someone who has truly experienced this feverish delirium we call cinephilia could create something like that. – Victor Guimarães