Melody teaches music at a children’s cancer center for thirty children who will have a party at the end of autumn. Melody is to compose a piece using the sounds of thirty different birds. She goes to her home village to record the birdsong and is helped by the mute caretaker of the family home, Mango.
When they find just 20 birds, Mango makes Melody understand that only the old village singer knows where the other birds are, but bird hunters have forced him out of the village. Melody sets out to find both him and the missing birds.
Tajikistan has submitted Behrouz Sebt Rasoul’s poignant film “Melody” for the 2024 Oscars, marking a significant return to the international stage after an 18-year hiatus. This ilm is, the country’s third-ever submission, is vying for recognition in the prestigious Best International Feature Film category. Written and directed by the talented Iranian filmmaker Sebt Rasoul, “Melody” weaves a compelling narrative around its titular character, played by Diman Zandi, who teaches music at a children’s cancer center.
Set against the backdrop of an approaching autumn party for thirty children at the center, Melody faces the unique challenge of composing a piece using the sounds of thirty different birds. This task propels her on a journey to her ancestral village, accompanied by the enigmatic mute caretaker of her family home, Mango. The film’s exploration of Melody’s quest unfolds with intricacy and depth, surprising audiences with its unconventional presentation and complex language, reminiscent of classical Japanese graphics.
The film’s complexity is not a mere artistic choice but a deliberate narrative strategy that keeps the audience engaged till the very end. Dr. Sadullo Rahimov, a distinguished film critic and FIPRESCI member, aptly notes, “The film surprised me with an unusual presentation of the material. It is built in a complex language, similar to many other art films. The author is searching for expression of the language for his idea throughout the film. Till the very end, it feels eternally unfinished.”
This deliberate use of incompleteness, inspired by the principles of classical Japanese graphics, serves as a tool to engage viewers in the protagonist’s relentless pursuit. The interplay between incompleteness and the search for meaning becomes a thematic thread that ties the audience to Melody’s journey. As Rahimov suggests, “This incompleteness intrigues the viewer to seek, together with the author, the form and means of finding the realization of the idea. This penetrates the audience’s mind for creative thinking.”
Melody’s journey, both physical and spiritual, becomes a metaphor for the intricate connection between humanity and nature. Through her passionate endeavor to instill a love of nature, particularly songbirds, in children facing the harsh reality of cancer, the film transcends its narrative boundaries. The symbolic importance of the birds, each representing a unique aspect of nature’s harmony, resonates with viewers on a deeper level.
The film’s submission for the 2024 Oscars adds another layer of significance to its artistic merit. As the only entry from Tajikistan since 2005, “Melody” not only marks a return to the international cinematic arena for the country but also underscores the film’s potential global impact. Rahimov’s reflections on the film’s value align with the eternal themes it explores, emphasizing, “In general, any work of art becomes valuable and always in demand if it is based on the eternal values of being.”
As the Oscars journey unfolds, “Melody” stands as a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Tajikistan and the collaborative efforts of Iranian and Tajik filmmakers. With its planned release in Tajikistan in September, the film is poised to captivate audiences on both national and international fronts. The cosmic and polyphonic qualities of “Melody” not only align with the artistic vision of Sebt Rasoul but also echo the sentiments of Ingmar Bergman, who likened cinema to music—a timeless and valuable medium that transcends momentary goals.
In conclusion, “Melody” emerges as a cinematic masterpiece that goes beyond geographical borders, connecting audiences with its universal themes and nuanced storytelling. As the film awaits the Oscar shortlist announcement on December 21 and the final nominees on January 23, it carries the hopes and aspirations of a nation eager to share its cinematic prowess with the world. The 96th Academy Awards, scheduled for March 10, 2024, may witness the celebration of “Melody” as a compelling testament to the enduring power of storytelling through film.
Cast & Crew
- Director, Writer and Producer: Behrouz Sebt Rasoul
- Director of Photography: Ali-Mohammad Ghasemi
- Diman Zandi
- Alireza Ostadi
- Meghdad Eslami
- Safar Haqdodov
- Zulfiya Sadikova
- Assistant Director: Rahman Mohammadi
- Editing: Behrouz Sebt Rasoul
- Original Music: Foad Samiei
- Sound Designer: Mahmoudreza Mousavinejad
- Sound Recordist: Jafar Alian Nasab
- Set Designer: Payam Hossein Souri
- Custome Design: Mojgan Eyvazi
- Make-Up Artist: Mohammad Zoghi Taleghani
- Visual Effects: Behrouz Sebt Rasoul
- Special Effects: Ali Bahri
- Production Manager: Mojtaba Noormohammadi
- Executive Producer: Nosir Saidov
- Producer: Behrouz Sebt Rasoul
- Production Company: NAMA Film
- Co-producer: Nosir Saidov
- Co-Production Company: SAFINA Company
- Running time : 85 mins
- Production: 2023
- Language: Persian / Subtitled in: English
- Genre: Drama, Fiction
- Shooting format: Digital 4k
- Screening format DCP
- Sound: 5.1 / Ratio 1.33:1 / Colour