January 22, 1999
This masterpiece of visual poetry, banned since it was shown at the Fajr Festival in 1992, is the first film to be rereleased under Iran's new, liberalized arts policy. Winner of three prizes at the Locarno Film Festival, Dance of Dust tells the story of Ilia, a young orphan boy who works in a brick kiln at the edge of a poverty-stricken town on a desolate, windswept plain. Like everyone there, adult and child, his days are filled with hard, backbreaking work, while at night he retreats to the cold and solitude of his tiny mud-brick hut. Limua, a young girl, works at the kiln with her family, and one day they exchange a glance and shy smiles. This small bond of affection, the only one in Ilia's life, grows into a childhood secret love which sustains them both. Their love is sealed by a brick which Limua imprints with her hand, but she soon falls gravely ill. In desperation Ilia steals a good-luck charm from a desert shrine and buries it for her recovery. Dance of Dust is remarkable both for the striking composition of its images, many of which could stand on their own as photographs, and the almost complete absence of dialogue except as background, like the sound of the constant, howling wind or the rhythm of village work. Director Abolfazl Jalili, recognized for his originality and experimental film language, returns to the Festival (his A True Story played in 1997) with this strong and unforgettable film that moves forward with storytelling which is purely visual and powerfully eloquent.