The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will begin its annual “Films from Iran” series tonight with Mohammad Reza Aslani’s once-banned and lost “Chess of the Wind” which looks fantastic after undergoing restoration by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Image Retrouvée laboratory (Paris). Directed by Mohammad Reza Aslani, who collaborated on the restoration, the film is regarded as one of the most singular works of Iran’s pre-revolution New Wave. Iranian and American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo who made her film debut as a sympathetic maidservant in “Chess” will be on hand for a Q&A session after the screening.

Ali Abbasi’s first-rate thriller “Holy Spider” is a fictionalized account of real events that took place twenty years ago in the holy city of Mashad where a serial killer murdered over a dozen female sex workers. Zar Amir Ebrahimi delivers a standout performance in one of the best films of 2022. The film screens Sunday, January 22, at 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 28, at 7:00 p.m.

Other highlights include, “The Apple Day (Rooz-e sib)” directed by Mahmoud Ghaffari. The universal story with documentary realism, involves an apple seller, his daughter, and a stolen truck. The tender film which takes place in a suburb of Tehran will screen Sunday, January 22 at 2:00 p.m.

In “No Bears (Khers nist), esteemed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was recently imprisoned by the Iranian government, plays a version of himself directing a crew shooting a film just across the border in Türkiye who becomes embroiled in drama as parallel love stories about two couples are thwarted by traditional beliefs and society’s expectations. The film screens Friday, January 27, at 7:00 p.m.

1984’s “The Runner” will be presented in a new digital restoration with actor Madjid Niroumand taking part in a live Zoom Q&A following the screening at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 28. The film is often lauded as the first movie to emerge from post-revolutionary Iran – and for having one of the best child performances of all time.

2022’s “Destiny” directed by Yaser Talebi, tells the story of 18-year-old Sahar whose mother passes away leaving her in charge of her poor, mentally challenged father. Living in a small isolated Iranian village, Sahar dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor. Gender roles are examined in the warm documentary that screens on Sunday, January 29, at 2:00 p.m.

Six critically acclaimed films from Iran will be shown this year at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston with additional screenings at the Asia Society Texas Center and Rice Cinema. Admission to screenings is $10 for the general public, and $8 for MFAH members, students with ID, and senior adults. For more information or to purchase advance tickets, visit mfah.org/films

While I cover films opening in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as a member of the Houston Film Critics Society, I wanted to pass along info about this wonderful festival just in case you may be interested in attending the event.

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.