The first installment of Abbas Kiarostami's Koker trilogy centers on one child's humbling devotion to a friend. Info
It’s a cliché that children are often wiser than adults. Abbas Kiarostami’s cinematic focus on children in his 1987 film Where Is The Friend’s House? adheres fully to this idea, studying one child’s own commitment to his fellow humans to create a touching parable about civic and spiritual devotion. The first installment of Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy (all three of which Cinematheque is showing this fall), Where Is The Friend’s House? also serves as a sort of emotional core to the trilogy. It's a straightforward dramatic exercise on which to base the more experimental meanderings of the later two films. When the protagonist Ahmed’s friend and classmate, Mohamed, leaves a notebook at Ahmed's house, Ahmed takes it upon himself to return the notebook that night so that the friend won’t be reprimanded for not bringing it to class the next day. Ahmed then spends the entire rest of the day attempting to return the notebook to Mohamed in the neighboring village, only to eventually fail and complete Mohamed’s homework for him instead.
Kiarostami brilliantly frames the clusters of dwellings in both neighboring villages in sometimes claustrophobic geometric detail. Centering a young child in these spaces, the small number of close-knit communities become an impossible labyrinth through which to navigate as Ahmed tries to complete his Sisyphean task. One of Kiarostami’s greatest gifts is his earnest empathy for the people in his films, but it’s the physical spaces explored in this film that underscore the purity of purpose felt by its lead character, creating one of his most endearing films. —Maxwell Courtright