Thiruvananthapuram: Many may claim to be diehard fans of Majid Majidi, but Louis Mathew, a teacher of film aesthetics, says that no one would have watched 'Children of Heaven' as much as himself-150 times. The first time he watched it, he also met the filmmaker at IFFI Delhi. The whole theatre had erupted in applauses when the film ended. To explain how dramatic this was, Louis Mathew describes the film enthusiasts of the nineties. "The ones who came to the festivals were always grim-faced. With unkempt hair and 'jhola' bags, they would watch the films serious films like say 'Utharayanam'. Until 'Children of Heaven' I have not seen anyone laugh heartily in a theatre. During the last lap of the race in the movie, every person was clapping," he says.
Then, Majid Majidi was a shy person who did not speak a word of English. There was no interpreter around, but the ones who were clapping were showering praises on him. At last, people started hugging. A hug, fortunately, in every language is a hug. Louis Mathew too embraced the director.
In the same crowd which got introduced to Majid Majidi was George Mathew, former director of Trivandrum International Film Festival. Following that first encounter, he with other organisers of TIFF, tried to bring Majid Majidi to Kerala. "After the release of his movie 'Baran' in 2001, we tried to invite him as a guest to TIFF. However it was difficult to establish a link with him, especially as he could not speak English. We had sought the help of Indian and Iranian embassies. We also spoke to an official at Feradi, an Iranian film distribution company. The date of the festival neared but there was no confirmation from his end. The embassy guys even offered to pay for his ticket, and we had promised to reimburse it. But finally we had to cancel the programme in which he was invited," says George Mathew.
Meanwhile Children of Heaven became a staple for film students. Louis Mathew has used it as a tool to introduce world cinema to different kinds of audience, be it schools, fishing villages and tribal hamlets. "This movie is seemingly so simple, but delivers a life-changing message. Except for a few scenes, the movie can be understood without subtitles. After the movie I ask everyone, whether the boy won. I feel he didn't. Winning is often interpreted as the first prize. Without knowing the context, we cannot say if someone is successful or not," he says. After watching it so many times, he still has some questions about the movie to ask to Majid Majidi. He eagerly hopes to ask in person.