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With: Mikheil Gomiashvili, Dachi Orvelashvili
Written by: Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Marziyeh Meshkini
Directed by: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Georgian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 119
Date: 06/03/2016

The President (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is considered one of the practitioners of the Iranian New Wave of the 1980s and 1990s, along with his late colleague Abbas Kiarostami. (Makhmalbaf figured prominently in Kiarostami's great masterpiece Close-Up.) Makhmalbaf's films were among the first Iranian films to be distributed in the United States, starting with his beautiful Gabbeh (1996) and his great A Moment of Innocence (1996). He has been heavily involved in helping younger filmmakers, and has even shepherded films by his wife Marziyeh Meshkini (The Day I Became a Woman) and daughter Samira (The Apple, Blackboards). In 2001, he directed the astounding, and amazingly timely Kandahar, set in Afghanistan.

For some reason, we haven't seen much of Makhmalbaf since then, until his new film The President (2016) quietly slipped into release earlier this year. Co-written by Meshkini, the movie tells the story of the president-slash-dictator (Mikheil Gomiashvili) of an unnamed country; he impresses his spoiled grandson (Dachi Orvelashvili) with his power to shut out the city's lights with a simple phone call. But revolution is brewing, and the president and the boy find themselves stranded in the countryside, with a price on their heads. He sees firsthand the misery and anguish he has caused, whether directly or indirectly. The film isn't always subtle, but it contains many strikingly poetic moments as it debates politics and humanity, revenge and empathy.

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