Amir Naderi’s 1984 “The Runner” is often lauded as the first movie to emerge from post-revolutionary Iran and for having one of the best child performances of all time with Madjid Niroumand. It’s now receiving a new restoration that will debut at Film Forum on October 28 and run through November 10, with Naderi and Niroumand appearing in person for screenings. It will then make its way around the country. Exclusively on IndieWire, watch the new trailer below.
In “The Runner,” an illiterate 11-year-old orphan (Niroumand), living alone in an abandoned tanker in the Iranian port city of Abadan, survives by shining shoes, selling water, and diving for deposit bottles, while being bullied by both adults and competing older kids. But he finds solace by dreaming about departing cargo ships and airplanes and by running — seemingly to nowhere.
The movie has echoes of Vittorio De Sica’s “Shoeshine” and “The Bicycle Thief,” along with Luis Buñuel’s “Los Olvidados” and Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” in combining a childhood coming-of-age story with neorealist elements. The movie was first shown in Venice and London, but it was not released in the United States until 1991 — and at New York’s Film Forum, marking a homecoming for the new restoration.
Born in the southern port city of Abadan, Amir Naderi remains one of Iranian cinema’s most influential directors and screenwriters. Writer/director Babak Payami has said that, in terms of modern Iranian cinema, “Amir Naderi broke new ground in the Iranian story-telling and cinematic style. His first films had a sense of hyper-realism that was unprecedented in Iranian cinema. Mr. Naderi created a culture of filmmaking, as much in how he worked as in the work that he did.”
Naderi began his career as a still photographer on Iranian films, making his directorial debut with the 1971 feature “Goodbye Friend.” He rose to international acclaim with movies including “Waiting” and “Water, Wind, and Dust.” He moved to New York in the early 1990s, making such movies as “Manhattan by Numbers,” “ABC… Manhattan,” “Marathon,” “Sound Barrier,” “Vegas: Based on a True Story,” and “Cut,” starring “Drive My Car” actor Hidetoshi Nishijima.
Naderi was named a Rockefeller Film and Video Fellow in 1997. He has served as an artist in residence and instructor at Columbia University, the University of Las Vegas, and the School of Visual Arts. Naderi’s films have premiered at the Cannes, Venice, Tribeca, Sundance, FILMex (Tokyo), and many other international film festivals. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at film festivals, arthouses and cinémathèques around the world, including a Museum of Modern Art tribute in 2018. MoMA curator Dave Kehr wrote, “Naderi spent his formative years on the street. A job working in a movie theater led him to discover his true homeland — the cinema — and Naderi has remained a citizen of that refined world ever since, pursuing his passion for filmmaking around the globe with no regard for physical borders or language barriers.”
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