Fifi Howls from Happiness
Mitra Farahani, France / USA, 2013, 96 min, In Farsi with English subtitles
Winner, Best Film, Buenos Aires International Festival, 2014; SCAM Award, Cinéma du Réel, 2013
Mitra Farahani’s lyrical documentary explores the enigma of provocative artist Bahman Mohassess, the so-called “Persian Picasso,” whose acclaimed paintings and sculptures dominated pre-revolutionary Iran. Irreverent and uncompromising, a gay man in a hostile world, Mohassess had a conflicted relationship with his homeland—revered by elites in the art scene and praised as a national icon, only to be censored later by an oppressive regime. Known for his iconoclastic art as well as his scathing declarations, Mohassess abandoned the country over 30 years ago for a simple, secluded life in Italy.
While the new Iranian government destroyed many of his works, Mohassess himself obliterated even more– in rage at man’s inhumanity to man, environmental destruction, and the futility of idealism. Ranging from tender to playful to haunting to grotesque, these unforgettable pieces were as mercurial as the man himself, a chain-smoking recluse with the mouth of a sailor and the soul of a poet, touched by a mischievous spark and as likely to lapse into a political rant as a burst of eccentric laughter.