The Traveler (Mossafer, 1974) is Abbas Kiarostami’s first feature (1973’s Tadjrebeh, sometimes listed as his first, was actually only 60 minutes). Obsessed with football, Qassem, a school boy from the country, cheats and lies to raise enough money for a bus ride to Tehran in order to witness a live soccer game.
Kiarostami being Kiarostami, Mossafer is far from being your typical football film. The film, made when the director was still at the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, while about a boy’s passion for the game, is more of a pretext to a subtext. In this early effort, the director’s signature is already in: the courtyards, the alleys full of kids, the mostly non-actors cast, long shots, minimalism, simple storylines with a strong dose of poetic realism. Already he posed as a champion of the use of local settings, people and situations to address universal themes.
Coupled with Kambiz Roshanravan’s music (a melange of local folk and dramatic scoring depth) Cinematographer Firooz Malekzadeh’s fine Black and white close framing carves and shapes faces into figures of authority (the family, the school masters, the police) contrasting with the dissidence embodied by the boys behavior.
To keep things going, the would-be-contemptible ways of young Qassem are told with humor in the first part. Ultimately, after all the indignation he stirred from adults, once he is freed of what is prohibited, as all powers can’t overcome his will or passion, the boy shows another facet, a good spirited nature, a will to share. His personality, mixed with the individuality of people surrounding him through his human scale achievement, proffers an analogy toward a game (football) made of the similar sole identity search expressed through collective efforts.