Sara Zandieh’s short The Pool Party lasts fourteen minutes but feels fleshed out enough to be worthy of a feature-length film, the narrative touching on simple but edifying truths.
Khani is a domestic servant who struggles to keep up with his mistress’ demands and endures the constant humiliation of his lower-class standing in a posh Iran. He hurriedly gets to the house in the morning only to be confronted with Ziba angrily yelling at her husband on the phone. The man of the house is away on business and will miss his daughter Lilli’s birthday. Unsurprisingly Ziba takes out her anger on Khani, bidding him crossly from one task to another.
Suddenly, Ziba is struck by an idea: her daughter’s birthday affair will be a pool party, a blowout for all the other kids. The family’s pool must be refinished, filled and ready in less than twenty-four hours. Feeling taken advantage of, Khani finally rebels. His creased, weary face is expressive of so much more than his individual struggles, and points to our awareness that he stands for an entire profession, relied upon but seldom acknowledged.
But even in this contentious situation, Khani has a loving rapport with Lilli—he coaxes her out of a tree where she goes to sulk after learning her father is away. Khani even has the contours of a relationship with Ziba, the lady of the house–when she’s not busy ordering him around. It’s these nuances that give the film its quality. “The Pool Party” resonates and bids our attention with a quiet resolve.
Zandieh has been shepherding the film through its festival stage, receiving accolades in the process. “The Pool Party” got a special jury mention at the last Tribeca Film Festival this year. It was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
A native of Iran who emigrated to the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war, Sara Zandieh has been in the last stages of completing her masters at Columbia University Film. This summer she completed a short film at a FEMIS workshop in France.
Her talent for showing her characters’ humanity in the subtlest way possible is already evident; mark her down as one director to watch.
(photo: Sara Zandieh)