It’s SIFF season! Seattle’s favorite film festival returns this month with 262 films in 11 days (April 14-24) screened both in person and online. We are rounding up some of our favorites. Expect two more Slog tips every day.
Seattle black boys on the run … Courtesy of Zia Mohajerjasbi
LA / 206 director Zia Mohajerjasbi’s debut film You know your place it’s a movie that everyone in Seattle (and all other major cities) should (must) watch. It’s a full job, and so unpacking everything is nothing but impossible within the obvious caution limits imposed on blog posts. But I’ll start by saying that the star of this film is, above all, Seattle. But this star has two important and different parts. One: the city that is becoming, classy, homogeneous. This type of city has less and less space for the working classes. Two: the city that is losing color. Black Americans were the first to leave. Now they are black Africans. The next will be the Americans of East Asia. You know your place happens in the now.
This was also your city. Courtesy of Zia Mohajerjasbi
The story of You know your place he is deeply black African. It is the odyssey of a 15-year-old (Robel Haile) charged with carrying a huge and heavy suitcase from one end of the city to the other by hand to a friend of the family who is returning to East Africa. I can attest to the authenticity of this plot. When an African returns home from the United States, he not only takes his own things, but also those of relatives and friends. I remember once taking a long bus ride to Shoreline to give a friend from Zimbabwe a bag full of vitamins for a sick family member in Harare. In Robel’s case, the suitcase he carries around Seattle (on the sidewalk, on this and that bus, on a Link train, or in the trunk of a taxi) contains, among other things, medicine.
But impressed by this black African-American plot, which also involves Robel’s best friend (Fahmi Tadesse), and the fact that the former is Eritrean and the latter Ethiopian deserves another level of unpacking, is the narrative sensibility of Iranian cinema of the ‘ 90, more specifically, the cinema of the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami; more precisely still, that of Kiarostami Where is the friend’s house?which is the first part of a trilogy that ends with one of the greatest films of the 90s, Through the olive trees. But where Mohajerjasbi, an American Iranian, separates himself from Kiarostami and the Iranian New Wave of the 1990s is his commitment to beauty (or aesthetic realism).
In fact, part of the sadness it goes through You know your place has as its source an unspoken consequence of the crude displacement of POCs by mainly wealthy white Americans: not only can POCs not afford to live in the city but, more importantly (and spiritually), they cannot afford to live in a beautiful city . In the days leading up to gentrification, no technological work or grand legacy was required to access Seattle’s dark light, its large population of large, leafy trees, glorious sunsets, and even the soothing music of its rain. In this film, Mohajerjasbi presents something completely new (if not revolutionary): a political economy of urban beauty.
Playing at the SIFF Egyptian on Sunday April 17th at 4pm and at Ark Lodge Cinemas on Tuesday April 19th at 5.45pm. The participation of director Zia Mohajerjasbi is scheduled.