While turbulent Iran struggles through its "worst of times," its film output celebrates a golden age. The beauty, depth and courage within that proud, ancient country is on ample display at the 17th Iranian Film Festival, now showing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and no film is as universally savvy as Majid Majidi's 2008 The Song of Sparrows, screening today. Like his 1998 Academy Award-nominated Children of Heaven, Sparrows is sweet and sour, a mix of Chekhov's neutrality and Renoir's forgiveness. When innocent rube Karim (Reza Naji, who looks like a really weather-beaten Judd Hirsch) loses his job on an ostrich farm, his life rushes out of control in loose, somewhat surreal scenes that are poignant and sweet, often darkly pessimistic and yet always quirky and humane. No matter what befalls poor Karim, the film remains a comedy. It's always hopeful. Alissa Simons from Variety called the movie "deeply humanistic...and beautifully crafted." The festival runs January 21 to 31. You can see The Song of Sparrows today at 5 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.
Thu., Jan. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 5 p.m., 2010