Amir Naderi’s “Harmonica”, “Runner” Are Unadorned, Admirable

Mansour Jahani – The Iranian films including “Harmonica” and “Runner” directed by Amir Naderi, are considered as the most important films of Iranian children cinema.

Produced in 1973, the “Harmonica” also won the gold medal in the city of Gifoni in 1990 and the Bronze Griffin Memorial Award.

“Runner” in 1989 managed to transform Iranian and children cinema during its time. The film is the first Iranian film to be produced after Iran’s 1979 revolution that drew the attention of the world to Iranian cinema.

Excluding its artistic values and astonishing cinematic structure; the film, thanks to its simplicity, prompted the children’s identification with story characters and became one of the valuable works in the history of Iran’s cinema.

“Runner” was perhaps the first of the post-revolution Iranian films to attract worldwide attention. It set the tone for many of the films which followed: realism, child’s eye perspective of the world, innocence, gentleness, set in poor neighbourhoods, exposing great disparities in wealth, resting much of the film on the shoulders of one young actor, using children’s lives as analogies for, or explicit expositions of, the problems of the adult world.

Many children of those years, without knowing the story correctly, made emotional communication with the “Runner” images and the film became part of the memory of the childhood of the Iranian cinema.

The film also shined in the 34th Venice International Film Festival in Italy, the Golden Balloon of the Nantes Triennial International Film Festival in 1985, won the Special Award for the International Film Festival “Singapore” in 1985, won the Jury Prize for the International Children’s Film Festival and won the International Critics Award from the Australian Film Festival Melbourne in 1987.

Drawing on his own childhood in the port city of Abadan, Naderi follows an orphan boy on his daily rounds, as he shines shoes, sells water, and collects empty bottles. He finds his only joy in the act of running, without direction or purpose.

Set on the sun-drenched southern coast of Iran, from which director Naderi hails, “Harmonica” begins as a young boy receives a musical present from abroad.

Fascinated and envious, his friends make him the leader of the pack, as they compete for the privilege of holding the harmonica or even blowing a few notes. No one is more obsessed than Amiroo, gentle and heavy-set, who seems willing to do anything to get close to the harmonica and its owner. Few films have more powerfully depicted the cruelty that is also part of childhood, as games and horseplay take on an increasingly sinister edge.

In 1986, Naderi made the film “Water, Wind, Soil” based on children and made public in Iran. In this film, Majid Niroumand (the actor in the role of “Amiro” in the movie “Runner”) played a major role and won the Grand Prix of the Golden Ball of the International Film Festival “Three Continents of Nantes” in 1989 in France, the Special Jury Prize of The 1990 Sydney International Film Festival, the Gifoni Film Festival Award in 1990, won the first prize at the 7th Belgian Festival of Bruges and the Fukuda Film Festival Award in 1991.