This documentary by Kamran Heidari about an Iranian pigeon fancier competed for top honors at the Dutch non-fiction festival. For almost fifty years, in a traditional district of Shiraz, Ali Agha has been raising pigeons but age and fatigue now do not allow him to fully devote himself to his passion. Some of his associates invite him to sell his adored birds, but for Ali Agha, it is completely non negotiable.
One can see a worrying flight that turns from enthusiasm into an obsession as Ali Agha refuses to part way with the birds whom he treasures more than his life. The aging pigeon fancy takes a toll on his health and his volatile eccentricity affects his family who are already suffering owing to the old man’s whims. Premiering in the feature-length competition at documentary giant IDFA, Ali Agha is an Iran-Switzerland-France co-production that is a well-crafted and disconcerting at times which puts forth some tough questions about the ethics and practicalities of non-fiction film making. The film is bound to find much more viewership not only at events but it would greatly interest TV buyers as well.
Pigeons have often been used as metaphor for distraction in films, like the ones so lovingly tended by Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront and many more fiction films. Alas, they do not seem to have a very good fate in Ali Agha. They are left to suffer with the old man and become symbolic of his anguish. The old man already in his late sixties is suffering from many dreaded ailments and is also burdened with the responsibility of looking after the household. A patient himself who needs proper care and treatment, how could he possibly take care of so many birds who are of practically no use to him, as he doesn’t breed them for racing purposes but only rarely sells them to a fellow fancier that too if he finds one.
But the one main benefit the old man obtains from his rooftop flock is a simple companionship that only he and the birds enjoy. By this stage of the film whatever sympathy we have garnered for the old man is being eroded by his bad temper, volatile outbursts and his getting incerasively incapable in handling the flock of birds. A quirky good old man is what seemed of Ali at first, but gradually he becomes bitter, tetchy and way too irascible.This documentary has a lot to tell about the fact that sometimes if we don’t let go with grace, we can end up making things detrimental not just for ourselves but also for those around us.
The film will soon be screened at The New Odeon, 6, rue de l'Ecole de Medecine, 75006 Paris
For details, visit http://www.nouvelodeon.com
Click on the slideshow for a sneak peek at the film.