The House is Black

Released:  1963

Cast:  Ebrahim Golestan, Forugh Farrokhzad

SUMMARY:  This movie is a documentary that focuses on life inside a leper colony in Iran.  It was directed by Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet who provided the female part of the narration (and some of her poetry).  The film starts with a description of the disease, discussing how it causes nerve damage, thickened skin, and skin growths.  However, leprosy is treatable, particularly if the patient is diagnosed early in the disease.  The lepers in the colony receive treatment, including drugs and skin care.  Despite the fact that they are isolated from the rest of society, the colony has established a school that works with children of various ages.  At the end, is shows a group of happy children playing together.

MY TAKE:  I’ve never actually seen real leprosy:  my only frame of reference is movies like Ben-Hur and Braveheart.  I know it was an issue in the times that the Bible was written, as Jesus famously healed a leper.  Consequently, this film achieved its purpose for me:  it illumined and educated me to the disease.  It was made in 1963, so treatments have probably changed, and knowledge of the disease has probably grown, but it’s still pretty educational.  The film makes it seem like leprosy is very contagious; it is a contagious disease, but not overtly easy to catch, like might be suggested by a whole separate colony (it’s a body-fluid transmission disease, kind of like HIV).  It’s pretty obvious that the early the leprosy is recognized and treated, the more likely the patient is to recover.  When left untreated, it tends to disfigure extremities like fingers and toes, and can actually basically dissolve the cartilage in the nose.  Despite the fact that the people in the film are dealing with an awful disease, it manages to be fairly upbeat:  the lepers in the colony are receiving treatment, and it is made clear that the disease does not affect their humanity.

RATING:  Informative.

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