Jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi continues persistently to release timely and topical films as a daring act of defiance...
Director: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Jafar Panahi, Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobaseri
Running time: 107 minutes
Just a few months following the hit debut film, Hit the Road, by Jafar Panahi’s own son Panah Panahi, Jafar himself has received praise for his latest release No Bears. This latest act of resistance against the Iranian authorities comes after Jafar was sentenced to six years in prison this July, having only finished the film two months prior. The most recent progression in silencing an artist that has been banned from making films and leaving the country in 2010.
Despite this restrictive ban, Jafar has continued to direct films and attract worldwide attention. The provocatively titled release This Is Not A Movie was smuggled out of Iran on a USB drive hidden inside a cake and went on to premiere with great acclaim at Cannes. The two following features, Closed Curtains and Taxi Tehran won Jafar a Silver and Golden Bear respectively at the Berlin film festival, while 3 Faces won best screenplay at Cannes.
The latest work is a timely piece, at a period of unrest as Iranian women revolt against authorities. Jafar plays a version of himself, a director who is renting a room in an Iranian village just over the border from Turkey where the production is set. Over on the Turkish side an Iranian couple Zara (Mina Kavani) and Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei), are faced with the prospect of separation as they attempt to flee to a new life in Europe. The action is based on the actors’ own actual ordeal in leaving Iran for good.
Jafar’s immense contribution to cinema, especially on a political note, proves the screen can be used for profoundly humane ventures.
As for the on set direction, Jafar has delegated it to his assistant Reza (Reza Heydari), and is, himself, watching via Skype due to his inability to leave Iran. But rather than directing from Tehran, he has chosen to rent a room in a remote village near the border with Turkey, placing him nearer the action. This generates a creative barrier, with which many of the audience can draw familiarities during the numerous Covid-19 zoom calls, as his signal drops in and out in slapstick style. His location does, however, provide an unfamiliar setting of rural Iran, of the small basic stone-houses, women using ground ovens, and chickens scratching about.
The intimate personal scenarios almost make you forget about the wider political seriousness as you become completely encapsulated by the characters and their narratives. Jafar’s immense contribution to cinema, especially on a political note, proves the screen can be used for profoundly humane ventures.
This is a bold and daring film, demonstrating that the movie industry can be an incredibly powerful host. Comedy, tragedy, and truth; this film is strikingly three-fold.
No Bears is currently showing at Broadway Cinema.
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