Doc by Mona Zandi reviews Gelmali tradition in Lorestan

September 21, 2018

TEHRAN – Mona Zandi, the director of the acclaimed drama “Friday Evening”, has made a documentary named “Gloomy Moments” that studies Gelmali, a ritual tradition observed in the month of Muharram in Lorestan Province in western Iran.

The documentary film premiered at the Rosewood Café in Tehran last Monday during a special ceremony attended by Zandi, actor Alireza Shojanuri and film critic Maziar Fekri Ershad.

“Gloomy Moments” puts a spotlight on the Gelmali tradition, which is observed annually on Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, the day upon which Imam Hussein (AS) and his companions were martyred in Karbala in 680 CE.

In this old tradition, the people of Khorramabad, the capital of Lorestan Province mix clay with water in big ponds in major squares and streets for people to apply on their faces and clothes as a sign of mourning. Some people collect dry wood and light fires to warm mourners who have covered themselves with mud.

“I had not worked on religious topics before, and this project took me about 10 months to carry out research on Ashura rituals in 30 different provinces, which resulted in compiling a 200-page book,” Zandi said at the premiere of the documentary.

“I finally chose Khorramabad because of their religious and mystic rituals and traveled there with my crew,” she added.

“While doing research I saw a great number of photos about the religious ceremonies and rituals in this province especially on the day of Ashura, which assured me I wanted to choose this location for the documentary,” she said.

Zandi said, “I actually believe that the Gelmali tradition is a type of cleansing of the spirit. All walks of people take part in this tradition. They all plunge into the mud and try to release themselves from their egos. I think people reach the zero degree and then return back once again through this tradition.”

“I can say this was a rare and unique experience for everyone, and can be a modern event despite being traditional,” she concluded.

Photo: A man lies in the pond of mud practicing the Gelmali tradition in Khorramabad, Lorestan Province, on Ashura 2017. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

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