Iranian documentarist Kamran Shirdel subjects the viewer to a dizzying array of conflicting perspectives regarding the supposedly heroic actions of a schoolboy. The boy became a local celebrity in Gorgan after the media became fixated on the story of how he single-handedly prevented a disastrous railroad accident. As multiple figures weigh in, however, the exact details of the story become increasingly unclear.
The Night It Rained was an undeniably rebellious statement for its time, which is great for pushing documentary aesthetics forward in Iran, but not so much for furthering its creator’s career. By having the gall to be so openly critical of power mechanisms under the Shah’s rule, Shirdel sacrificed his position as filmmaker for the Ministry of Culture & Art in Tehran, who unsurprisingly banned the film. The good news is that by merging lessons learned from the Italian Neorealists with his own ideas, Shirdel pioneered a distinctly Iranian approach to socially-conscious filmmaking that is equal parts intellectual and playful. A line can be drawn from The Night It Rained to the later work of Iranian auteurs such as Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, which reflects similar fixations on the entanglement of truth and fiction.