PROD/SCR Mohsen Makhmalbaf
CAM/ED Maysam Makhmalbaf
MUS Paul Collier
PROD CO Makhmalbaf Film House
Iranian master Mohsen Makhmalbaf, shooting, with son Maysam in the stunning gardens at Baha’i headquarters in northern Israel near Haifa, crafts a colourful, playful and yet acutely intelligent look at the Baha’i faith.
A film of deep poetry and beauty, The Gardener is, on one level, an inquiry into the relevancy of religion in today’s world. Makhmalbaf himself takes the pro-faith role while the secular Maysam has his doubts. The film follows a gardener from Papa New Guinea as he explains the Baha’i faith, a religion that has been misrepresented in Iran. While the father wants to understand who the gardener is and why he is there, the son rejects the concept of religion all together…
"An intimate, discursive inquiry into religious belief that opens to include questions about cinema, the movie is largely set within the perimeters of the astonishing Baha’i gardens. Holy sites for the Baha’i faith in the Israeli cities of Haifa and Acre (also known as Akko), the gardens serve as shrines… As such they’re kaleidoscopic manifestations of belief, affirmations that have been realized in meticulous, geometric arrangements of hundreds of plants… As he rambles throughout, his camera inching antlike close to the ground and then soaring birdlike over the grounds, [Makhmalbaf] lyrically joins the spiritual with the terrestrial. By the time the movie ends, he has borrowed a gardener’s hat and is tending a holy place that, he has made clear, extends far beyond these enchanted realms…"—Manohla Dargis, New York Times