Gabbeh or The Weaver’s Spirit


Title: Gabbeh “The Weaver’s Spirit”


Subject:           A woman’s spirit emerges from a woven rug and shares her life and dreams as a young woman.

Year: 1997

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance

Produced: MK2 Productions

Distributed By: ___

Format: DVD, Persian with English subtitles

Reviewed by: Malcolm L. Rigsby.  Malcolm L. Rigsby is a faculty member in sociology at Ouachita Baptist University, completing his Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology.  He holds his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas.  More Reviews  

Running Time: 75 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended.  9 points out of 10. 

Directed by: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Starring:          Shaghayeh Djodat, Abbas Sayah, Hossein Moharami, Rogheih Moharami,                          Parvaneh Ghalandari

Audience Level: Jr. High through College and General Adult.   

  • Best Director, Catalonian International Film Festival
  • Silver Screen Award, Singapore International Film Festival
  • Best Artistic Contribution Award, Tokyo International Film Festival


Viewing this film is an extra-ordinarily dreamlike discourse in life.  While some of the scenes are very simplistic, Makhmalbaf uses his talent to connect with his audience.  He weaves a poetic sequence of events into a story of life around two elderly people and a young woman’s search for happiness. 

Perhaps viewers unfamiliar with eastern nomadic life would benefit by a closer examination of the title of this film.  Gabbeh are rugs woven by nomadic tribes of the southern Zagros Mountains of Iran. The weaver of the rug, historically a woman, tells a story arising from her understanding of life.  She weaves symbols, geometric designs, colors into scenes depicted in the carpet.  Each weaver therefore expresses a unique world-view of life.  These stories depict the personal life of the weaver.  They express her spirit and her interpretation of daily life through her artisanship.  To examine these works of art is like exposing the weaver’s spirit, soul, and philosophy of life.  That is why I call this film “The Weaver’s Spirit”.  Makhmalbaf develops this story around this unique concept; the weaver’s personal understanding of life and self. 

In this context the life of Gabbeh comes to life.  Sit back and enjoy this tale of beauty, heartache, dream, fulfillment, and self-worth.  Set in the Zagros mountain foothills we open with an aging couple who are arrive at a branch of cold, clear, rushing water.  They are seeking to clean their gabbeh.  As the gabbeh is unrolled for cleaning, the old woman comments dear gabbeh why are you so blue?  Who is the man depicted in the weave?  Why is he carrying away a young woman on his steed?  Magically, as if the antithesis of the apparent love between this elderly couple, their love for each other, and their steadfast companionship, a vision in the form of a lovely young woman appears and offers to help them clean the gabbeh.  From here, the beauty and charm of the film unfolds as we learn the deeply heart-felt feelings and experiences of the young woman.  Her desire and heartache over her unapproachable love spills forth as she and the couple share emotions about life.  The film incorporates ethnographic realism and self-narrative enabling us to merge into the young woman’s life.   But, don’t let these technical terms concern you.  Rather the film is much like a dialogue between trusting friends, who seek to share needs and interests with each other.  It is a tale of seeking to fulfill the need for love.

In watching this film I soon became participant-like.  I found myself meditating upon Gabbeh’s experiences.  Makhmalbaf’s use of color, sounds, and cinematography creates a landscape that allows us to connect with the characters’ own questions about love, family, tradition, and relationships with other people.  This film is great for the family.  Whether young or mature you are sure to enjoy this film.   

For further information on obtaining a copy of Gabbeh you may wish to visit at


Iranian film, art film, folklore, asian cinema, iran, carpets, Iranian cinema, asian films, magic realism, makhmalbaf, gabbeh


About Malcolm L. Rigsby

Malcolm L. Rigsby, Ph.D., J.D. is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, Human Services and Criminal Justice at Henderson State University, Arkansas. He received his Ph.D. in sociology, at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas. In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology. He holds his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas. He is active in the independent review of documentary film as well as a free lance reviewer for Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO) hosted by the libraries at the University of Buffalo. He is active in research of prisoner identity and transformation toward pro-sociality and desistance from crime.
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