Eye For Film >> Movies >> Galena (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Towns with lone or almost isolated residents have been cropping up a lot in documentaries in the past few years - from the Vanishing Roads of Spain, to The One Man Village of Lebanon, to the Macedonian village in Honeyland and the isolated desert road in 143 Sahara Street. Now Iranian documentarian Ezzatollah Parvazeh adds Auntie Esmat to the list. Full biographical detail about this little old lady who lives near a lead mine in the village of Nakhlak in the desert province of Isfahan in Iran are provided at the end of Parvazeh's affecting 30-minute short, with the details about what we have previously seen - including a cuddly toy, whose name we finally learn - adding a poignancy to what has gone before. We meet Esmat collecting wood somewhere near where the town's lead mine is still active and, through the course of the film, we'll also be introduced to its workers, of which she was once one, both at work mining the galena or and leisure.
The environs of Nakhlak seem almost post-Apocalyptic, with a long-dead bus and a broken down playpark that hasn't heard the laughter of children for many a year quickly establishing the tone, along with a dung beetle, which we repeatedly see going about its business.
She may be elderly, but Esmat is very much her own woman, sweeping the street, heading to what appears to be a municipal office to borrow the phone to call her children or joining the workers for a bite to eat in their canteen. Her independence is tinged with sadness as while she might insist she doesn't want to move in with her doctor daughter because "I can't be my own person there", we also hear her confide in her soft toy that she feels abandoned by her kids. Cinematographer Ebrahim Moradi (who also edited the film with Parvazeh) captures the great and small of this community, showing a painterly and patient eye for faces, which are often shot at close quarters, and landscapes. Both he and the director also know a great bit of composition when it comes their way - as evidenced by a shot in which we see Esmat walking slowly towards the camera as a scorpion scuttles past in the foreground.
The score from Kareng Karbasi carefully adds to the melancholy atmosphere as this absorbing and poetic snapshot of a road less travelled unfolds.Reviewed on: 01 Jul 2020