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Amir Naderi: Life and Movies

Table of Contents


Life of Amir Naderi

Amir Naderi was born in Abadan, in the Persian Gulf, on August 15, 1946. He never knows his father and loses his mother when he is 5 years old. Orphaned, he survives in Tehran living on the street and doing the most humble jobs. As a teenager he managed to find work as a photographer and assistant director in cinema. This life experience will mark his entire filmography. 

His point of reference in photography is Henri Cartier Bresson. In cinema he loves Neorealism because it reflects his life experience and his vision of the world. In fact, many of his films will be made with non-professional actors and will tell stories of the poorest working class in Iran. 

Amir Naderi’s Films

Amir Naderi’s filmography can be divided into two distinct parts: Iranian films up to 1988, and subsequent films made outside Iran, mostly in the United States. In both cases his coherence and his urgency to make films remain unchanging and extraordinary. There is certainly ain his films substantial autobiographical part. From homeless Iranian kids wandering the desert to alienated thirties in the metropolis of New York. 

In the 70s Amir Naderi made 11 films in Iran, starting to work as a director of commercial films. He later refines his style and becomes more and more an author, creating personal films with a avant-garde language, always remaining in its country of origin. 

Goodbye Friend

His first film as a director is Goodbye Friend, an independent production of 1971. The film shows the problems of the poorer classes and their conflicts with the upper classes in sober language. The manages to get out of Iran without being blocked by the censorship of the pre-revolutionary government. It is the story of three young friends who decide to rob a jewelry store. Greed will destroy their friendship and provoke revenge and betrayal. 


In 1973 he made Tangna, an independent film that tells you the story of Ali Khoshdast, a man who kills another man by mistake in a fight and is forced to run away from his relatives who want to take revenge. 


Also in 1973 he directed one of his works destined to become a cult film, Tangsir, a film based on the short story by Sadeq Chubak, set in the southwestern Iranian coastal province of Bushehr around 1935. The story deals with the themes of justice, honor, patriotism and revenge. Tangsir has excellent critical acclaim. 


Harmonica is a merciless film about the cruelty of childhood, set on the sunny south Iranian coast where Amir Naderi comes from. A little boy receives a harmonica as a gift and becomes the leader of his group. His friends envy him and approach him because they want the musical instrument. 


Entezar tells of the encounter between a boy and a woman who welcomes him in an upper-class house. With this film Naderi arrives at a more experimental cinema, an explicitlycinema non-narrative, where dialogues are reduced to a minimum and fundamental importance is given to images and sounds. 

Other Iranian Films

Between the vagabonds and the poor is set Requiem, shot in 1976, which precedes Made in Iran, Made in America, 1978, in which the main character is a boxer. In the early 80’s Naderi made two films: Search One, in 1980, and Research Two, in 1982. The two films tell the social consequences of the Iranian revolution. 

In 1984 he made an cult film that would have influenced the style of Iranian arthouse films after the revolution, The Runner. It is a film from which one can guess by looking at it that Amir Naderi had reached, like many other artists, a breaking point with his country and that he would soon emigrate. 

In Water, wind, sand, from 1988 the protagonists are again a group of kids who try to survive against the difficulties of life and the terrible social and natural disasters. The films of this period are works of pure cinema, where dialogue is almost absent. Amir Naderi tells, as he does in his photographs, exclusively through images and sounds, with great vital energy. 

Amir Naderi in the United States

After this film, he definitively ends relations with his country of origin and moves to New York City. One of the main themes of Amir Naderi’s cinema is loneliness in urban spaces, the lack of roots and the search for one’s place in the world. Naderi’s cinema is representative of the Iranian diaspora. 

At the end of the 80s, in New York, he frequents theenvironment independent cinema and continues to work as a photographer. He wants to be considered anat all costs independent American director and forget about Iran. 

In 1993 he made Manhattan in numbers, set in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York. Subsequently, in 1997, he made A, B, C Manhattan, with the actress Lucy Knight. Amir Naderi is also the film’s producer, continuing to prefer a totally independent cinema. Then in 2002 he made Maratona, and in 2005 Sound Barrier. These two films conclude his New York period

The next film is Vegas: Based on a True Story, from 2008. Amir Naderi financed the film by actually playing in Las Vegas casinos, taking risks himself. A fascinating poetic where cinema and the director’s life proceed in parallel, mirroring each other, with total authenticity. 

Las Vegas, an artificial oasis in the desert, the cause of the mirages of wealth and materialism of modern Western society. The Parker family is under the influence of a strange treasure hunt, a race for greed in the lights of Las Vegas. 

Then he made a film in Japan and one in Italy: Cut in 2011, Monte in 2016

Magic Lantern

Then he returns to the United States and sets Magic Lantern in Los Angeles in 2018. It is the story of Mitch, a projectionist who is preparing the last show in arthouse cinema that will be transformed into multiplex, a tribute to history of cinema. On the big screen, through the small window of the projection room, Mitch sees images of his life passing by, when as a young boy he tried to sell used objects on the street. Then comes a mysterious girl who vanishes when she goes to answer a phone call. Mitch will try to find her anyway. 

Magic Lantern is a film-homage to cinema made with film and to a world that no longer exists. For Amir Naderi Cinema is everyday life, cinema is the representation of love. Cinema, dreams and life merge in this film set in a Los Angeles depersonalized by the evolution of society. Also in this film Amir Naderi takes care of almost all the creative aspects, including the sound, to which he attributes a fundamental value. 

The last film of 2021 is entitled Bahram Beyzaie: a journey in search of identity

Most of Amir Naderi’s films are little known in the West. Only some of his works have had international distribution. Despite this, his film retrospectives and photographic exhibitions are held in various festivals and events around the world. The Lincoln Center in New York and the Torino film festival in Turin have organized some retrospectives on his work. He became a film producer of young directors. 

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