Quick Film Guide: Fifi Howls from Happiness (Mitra Farahani, 2013)

Fifi az khoshhali zooze mikeshad
Directed by Mitra Farahani
USA, Iran, France

Filmmaker Mitra Farahani’s documentary about eccentric Iranian painter Bahaman Mohasses, once known as the Persian Picasso, is an intimate portrayal of mortality. She meets him and films him during the last months of his life. At the time of filming, he was living alone, as a recluse, in a hotel room in Rome, Italy.

Fifi Howls from Happiness no standard biographical documentary. While it touches on many events of the artist’s history and the historical context during which they originated – particularly that of pre-revolutionary Iran – it is more driven by Farahani’s camera, constantly facing Mohasses and rarely distracted, ready and eager to capture anything from one of his priceless anecdotes, to his chain smoking habit, to him watching archive footage of himself as a younger man, to a burp.

In a sense, the documentary does come across as a filmic testament but it is just as much a brutally honest portratal of an old man who, at the end of an apparently fulfilling life, only finds solace in the thought that the leopards and the lions will be replaced by little jackals and hyenas – to paraphrase Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, whose novel The Leopard is a leitmotif of the feature.

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