TIFF15 REVIEW: Wolkaan [2015]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 30 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Canada)
Studio: Mass Ornament Films
Director(s): Bahar Noorizadeh
Writer(s): Bahar Noorizadeh

“Do you remember the rest of the poem?”

Writer/director Bahar Noorizadeh had this to say about her latest experimental short Wolkaan on its Kickstarter page: “As an immigrant from Iran, I am facing the slow and painful loss of language and culture from my intimate life on a daily basis. I feel a connection in this with the city of Tehran itself. Tehran is a forgetful city, always relying on the present moment and not withholding to its past. Through an apocalypse I want to give Tehran the opportunity to freeze eternally under the heavy lava erupting from the volcano. Wolkaan deals with the issue of preserving memory within a culture of diaspora. In this, the film itself becomes a space for meditation on loss and forgetting, and possibly forgiving.” I’m not sure anyone could say anything better about its goals or meaning.

Without this context, though, the film is merely two stories conjoined by that apocalyptic idea of volcanic destruction. Whether an actual eruption shot in gorgeous cinematography above Tehran with the gradually moving lava crackling through empty streets below as the city uncoils in brightly lit celebration or a father (Farid Kossari) and son (Sepehr Salehi) traveling through Mid-West America ending up in an outdoor dinosaur park with its own sculpted mountain that eventually holds its own news of mortality, the work becomes more about the image than the mirrored contextual relationship between life and death. To go from such quiet reverence to the conversation of youthful curiosity is jarring and perhaps a little confusing too. Both halves living in their own present now are documented so the world can never forget.

It’s quietly contemplative and resonate enough to conjure your own memories from what’s onscreen and I like that about it if not the realization it proves its depth in what you bring to the table rather than itself. Wrapping my head around that part is hard because we aren’t seeing abstraction. We’re shown actual stories that somehow prove less interesting than how we project ourselves upon them. I think that was the goal, but I can’t intrinsically trust it because my mind continues to want to understand it externally. But even if I fail at reconciling this aspect of the whole, I can’t deny the visceral appeal of simply looking at these moments of man juxtaposed with nature and the beauty in their ability to catalyze rebirth. To forget is to experience anew—progress born from extinction.

Courtesy of TIFF

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