Saturday, April 13, 2024

ND/NF ’24: Meezan (Scale)

The Iranian port city of Abadan is perched near the Iraqi border, along the Persian Gulf. It was a precarious place to live during the 1980 War, but the locals are really at the mercy of the sea. The entire area largely revolves around the fishing (and shrimping) industry, so when catches are good, business is good. When catches are bad, times are tough. Filmmaker Shahab Mihandoust closely observes their work off and on-shore in Meezan (Scale), which screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films.

It has been over forty years since the Iran-Iraq War, but it is still a common point of reference for the hardscrabble fishermen and longshoremen. The work is hard and probably smelly, but what really comes through in
Meezan is the ambient sounds. Mihandoust takes great efforts to immerse viewers (who are almost more listeners) in Abadan’s aural landscape. The intention is almost to create an ASMR ethnographic documentary.

Cineastes who are intellectually fascinated with process and craft will be enraptured by Mihandoust’s sound design. However, those hoping to delve into the sociology of Iran’s marginalized working class, they must mostly glean what they can from the Wiseman-esque presentation. Mihandoust incorporates some interview snippets, but they are more conversational rather than probing.

Indeed, one of the big take-aways is the long shadow the Iran-Iraq War still casts over this region.
Meehan is divided into three sections, set on the boats, on the docks, and in a shrimp processing plant. As an aside, after watching Meezan viewers might prefer to source their shrimp exclusively from Latin America. Regardless, the most visually dynamic images probably come during the fishing vessel segment.

Those who were enamored with Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel’s
Leviathan should adore Meezan just as much or more, because it is thematically and stylistically similar, but more accessible. In a twist of fate, it is the second film set in Abadan to make the New York festival rounds this year, following the outstanding animated film, The Siren. The film-craft is impressive, but the audience is limited for Meezan screens today and tomorrow (4/13 & 4/14) during ND/NF.