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Mountain View, CA,
7 March 2006
Frightening, Powerful, and Hopeless. I saw this at Cinequest, the San Josè Film Festival in March of 2006. The story is about a middle-aged detective, beaten down by life and bureaucracy, until he seems just barely able to pull himself through each day. He’s also a drug addict, smoking something, but I’m not sure if it’s hash or opium. He’s investigating a series of murders of prostitutes in the slums of Tehran? The movie is in Farsi, with English subtitles, so I din’t catch all the details.
What makes this movie different from the other 100 serial killer of prostitutes being pursued by a burnt out detective movies you’ve seen is it’s presentation of the physical and cultural deterioration of Iran. The rain-soaked scenes in the ancient alleyways look like something out of Blade Runner, except this isn’t some sci-fi fantasy, but modern reality. There’s a religious school that figures in the story and the rituals that these disciples engage are truly frightening, particularly the lengths they go to for self-punishment and repentance.
It’s relentless in its portrayal of corruption and cynicism at the higher levels of society, even as those at lower depths literally give their lives for their piety. Not all those in power want the killings to stop because they’re “cleaning up the city”.
This movie is chilling in its portrait of a culture deconstructed by religious fundamentalism and it will make you despair of being able to reason with those fundamentalists at the heart of the Islamic Jihad.
November 28, 2005
With ”The Forbidden Chapter” Fariborz Kamkari takes us on a journey to a frightening reality that takes place in a holy town in Iraq near the Afghan border. The story is said to be based on a true event in where a man was put in front of the court in Iran charged with the crime of having murdered 15 prostitutes with the purpose of cleaning the town from sinners. The main character is the persistent detective Habib who returns to his home town to investigate the mysterious murders of a large number of prostitutes. In this border town religious pilgrims are mixed with Afghan refugees and Iranian middleclass to an explosive mix where the prostitute women from the refugee camps are treasured the lowest. In his quest for the murderer Habib meets the prostitute Leila who has managed to escape the mysterious murderer on several occasions. Together they strive to find the cold-blooded killer in a strong head wind from the towns political forces that argue that as long as the murderer sticks to killing prostitutes one can look the other way. Habib does not give in to these forces though and his searching soon leads him to a religious school. “The Forbidden Chapter” is a dark and suggestive thriller which deals with the problems of fundamentalism and contradictive interpretations of the Koran. At the same while it is an exiting thriller that captures me from the very start. Foremost it’s the imagery that captures me and I’m much impressed by how well Kamkari succeeds in telling the story through the camera. There is not much dialogue in the film, but I can understand why Kamkari have chosen to present his film this way, since the imagery tells us more than words can ever do. Through the camera lens he has captured a world that to me is very distant and presented it in such a way that I can feel it. I can feel compassion both with the opium-addict detective struggling against odds, with the prostitute women who struggle to feed their children as well as with the brainwashed killer who is captured between ideals and reality. What Kamkari delivers us is not a thin average Hollywood-thriller where the good are good and the bad are bad. Instead we find ourselves in a suggestive world that forces us to stop and think. “The Forbidden Chapter” is a film that affects me strongly. The imagery is fantastic, the plot engaging and the actors exceed expectations. So, I would say that “The Forbidden Chapter” is by all means worth seeing.

Stockholm, November 22,
The religious awakening that has resurrected in different forms is screened at the Stockholm Film Festival. One could call this trend by different names. Fanatism. Fundamentalism. Litteralism. Conflicts arouse all over, unbelievable to the so called rational thinking. Whether it is about Muslims, Christians or Jews. The one who lives out the belief that god is love can, if he loves too much, become very full of hate.
In the Iranian/Italian film THE FORBIDDEN CHAPTER' (directed by Fariborz Kamkari), we are introduced to the Islamic fundamentalism. In the poor area of the city of Mashad a number of prostitutes are being found brutally slaughtered. The police officer, who has grown up in this area, is being sent from the capital to investigate the case. But when he goes against the local police department and says out in public that this case is about murders with religious motives, he gets beaten and fired. He continues on his own and detects a clue that leads him to a Koranic school with a very strict hierarchy, led by the school master.
Kamkari's film is exciting and well made, with scenes rich of atmosphere, from grim initiations rites to huntings in the area where the 'long knives' are awaiting. But this film is first and foremost a rich description of an Islamic segment of society, where litteralism is a must, doubt is Satan and brutal punishment is the price. The women in themselves are a threat, this is why the cleansing of evil starts with them and continues with cultural expressions such as films. Kamkari got is debut film 'Black Tape' banned home in Iran, so the question is whether the mullahs will buy this one.

October 12, 2005
While mainstream Iranian cinema is rich in dramatic genres, the country's art film exports normally steer clear of such entertainment. "The Forbidden Chapter" is an exception. A down-at-heel detective is sent to his hometown to investigate a serial killer who targets prostitutes, and finds himself sucked into an ugly collusion between the police and a cult of religious fanatics….Intercut with Habib's arrival in the holy city full of painful memories for him, are the strange goings-on at a Muslim religious school. Its head, the Master (stage thesp and director Farhad Mohandespour), is a cruel lecher who doesn't practice what he preaches. When a mentally unbalanced student deliberately blows himself up in the courtyard after suicide-bomber training, the Master distastefully instructs the other students to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, a fearsome shadow is haunting the sacred streets of the city, knocking off ladies of the night. Viewers immediately realize this is probably Seyf (Nima Hassandokht), the school's most wild-eyed fanatic, a handsome young blade with shoulder-length hair. When the Master gives him a bath one night, there is little doubt he's the favorite…..Faramarz Gharibian, a star in Iran, tends to look more like a Shakespearean tragedian than a gumshoe….Hassandokht makes an eye-catching debut in the juicy role of Seyf. Negar Abedi, a stage thesp, stands out as the bold Leila.
Visuals are often hard to distinguish amid the pic's dark, rainy look and frequent scene cuts….….The film does contain some striking imagery, like the memorable scene of white-garbed students dancing around a fire. In another moment, Kazem Shahbazi's camera captures the arched school precincts with the sinister shadows of Hitchcock's London. Peyman Yazdanian's score ranges masterfully from drumbeats to cello.

El Diario Vasco
September 24, 2005
Iran. In the holy city of Mashad. City of god, city of death, city of miracles, city of pain, city of sinners, city of prostitutes, city of rain, city of tin and mud. A serial killer. He kills women who sell their bodies. Sinners, say the disciples of a cruel religious master. When the killer gets close to one of the prostitutes to accuse her, she answers to him with furious words full of dignity: "Kill me. I am not afraid of the judgement of god. Who will be there to judge me that I have sold my body to save the life of my children?"….
The Forbidden Chapter creates a strange hypnotical fascination on the audience. The persistent rain falling over dead and alive, the sound of the heavy doors and the tin houses, the melopoeia of the drums played by the disciples of god, the society of bodies and souls…
Tough dusty swampy fascination. Sometimes it reminds us of 'M, the monster of Dusselforf'…
Terror is its territory, a land in the darkness.