Cherike-ye Tara (The Ballad of Tara). 1979. Iran. Written and directed by Bahram Beyzaie. With Susan Taslimi, Manouchehr Farid, Reza Babak. Digital restoration. US premiere. In Persian; English subtitles. 102 min.
Bahram Beyzaie’s seamless blend of myth, symbolism, folklore, and classical Persian literature is unparalleled in its complexity. In addition to directing, Beyzaie also produced, wrote, set- and costume-designed, and edited this mesmerizing tale, which fuses the ceremonial legends of the past with contemporary life. Tara, a strong-willed widow, encounters the fleeting ghost of an ancient warrior in the forest next to her village. The ghost’s appearances become more frequent and finally he talks to her, claiming a sword that she has found among her father’s effects. Without the sword, the dead warrior can’t rest. But when the sword is restored to him, it’s his love for Tara that prevents him from returning to the land of the dead. With the close of production coinciding with the 1979 revolution and the Islamist takeover of the country, it wasn’t so much the political symbolism of the film that led to its indefinite ban. Rather, it was the image of a woman, both desired and at the same time in charge of her destiny, that upset the authorities.