“For anyone familiar with the prolific work of local independent filmmaker Bill Mousoulis, the images in A Sufi Valentine seem at first like old friends. Couples are glimpsed at the silent, strained end of an argument we will never understand; individuals are captured in still lives of everyday solitude.
But it does not take long for some exciting new elements to be added. A Sufi Valentine is a collaboration between Mousoulis and poet Ali Alizadeh - Alizadeh is a modern exponent of Sufi poetry, mixing his own work with translations of classics by Hafiz and Rumi. The intensity of the lyrics is seemingly a long way from the restrained minimalism of Mousoulis’s imagery: “Your lustrous face stars against the dark cave’s backdrop / Your eyes roar with tropical might.”
The juxtaposition is initially startling and even disconcerting, but eventually the images start to warm up in response. Slowly, as the piece unfolds, we see the beginnings of new relationships, or the arrival of artistic inspiration.
The path of a dancer (Safoura Alizadeh) is the most intriguing. We see her alone in a studio, seemingly blocked and in despair. She lies on the ground or listens to music, but nothing works. That is, until one of those subtle and magical transformations often seen in Mousoulis’s films.
The moment when she finally liberates herself into dance is no Bollywood spectacular. But in the context of A Sufi Valentine it serves to bring everything together – all the small tentative steps taken by all the characters in their daily lives, moving ever closer (even as they are unaware of it) to the kind of physical joy and spiritual communion powerfully promised in the poetry.
FOUR STARS” - Adrian Martin, The Age, June 10, 2004.
“In A Sufi Valentine, Iranian-born Melbourne poet Ali Alizadeh places himself squarely, if agnostically, in the aesthetic tradition of Sufi mysticism. And not without what might be taken as a certain arrogance - for this half hour performance, he puts himself on the bill with two of the greatest Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz, who hail respectively from 12th and 14th century Persia. But as Yevteshenko said to young poets: "Be equal to your talent, not your age. / At times let the gap between them be embarrassing. / Fear not / To be young, precocious..."
Despite the excuse of youth, there is neither embarrassment nor precocity in Alizadeh's performance. A Sufi Valentine is what is sometimes grandly called cross-media art - that is, it incorporates elements of a poetry reading, theatre and film - but what is most striking about it is its simultaneous humility and ambition.”
- Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes, June 16, 2004