Grass (1924)

As well as jaw-dropping long distance travel this stunning film serves up great granite slabs of astonishing social history and anthropology. Once you’ve seen it, you will be richer.

It’s unusual to bring the Third Reich into this brochure but here goes: Allegedly, Hitler’s favourite film was King Kong. The giant ape’s tragic journey from Skull Island to the USA was brought to the screen by Hollywood lensman Ernest B. Schoedsack in 1933. Less well known is that in 1924, Schoedsack was on another journey, tramping across Turkey, Mesopotamia and Persia filming one of the great documentaries of all time. Grass follows the migration of the Persian Bakhtiari tribe from the arid climes of today’s Iraq to the rich pastures further north in what is now Iran. The move is an Exodus of truly biblical proportions as 50,000 humans and half a million beasts trudge, stumble and swim in search of the elusive grass of the title. Forget all the stories of extras on the sets of Spartacus, Ben Hur et al, this migration truly is epic! Students of the genre of documentary rank this up with Robert Flaherty’s Nanook Of The North but once you’ve seen these thousands of humans, crawling ant-like over the frozen passes, you will be well qualified to challenge that assertion. The scene chronicling the crossing of the swollen Karun River is alone, enough to warrant attendance at this year’s festival!

B/W