Jafar Panahi aims the Golden Lion at the Iranian regime with a brilliant strike

The press conference was led by an empty chair Not a bear, the final film in the Golden Lion competition at the Venice Film Festival. Its director, Jafar Panahi, was unable to attend the film’s launch because he is in prison in Iran for demonstrating against the arrest of two other fellow filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mustafa Alehmad. This is not the first time that Panahi, one of the great auteurs of Iranian cinema and one of the most critical critics of its government, has been arrested.

Already in 2010, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Panahi was released after posting $200,000 bail. First under house arrest, he was later allowed to leave, but was unable to film due to his sentence, which also included a 20-year ban on filming, traveling abroad and giving interviews. Despite everything, the filmmaker managed to keep spinning. The need to narrate and analyze his country made him continue to make films in which he played with his own limitations.

In This is not a movie (2011) managed not to leave his own house; meanwhile, Taxi Tehran (2015) got into a car to defy a ban on filming and became an impromptu driver through which the various stories that defined Iran at the time unfolded. then three facesFor which he won Best Screenplay at Cannes, his fourth film, Undercover, made him a clear favorite for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Faced with the impossibility of being at the festival, Panahi sent a short message that the director of Mostra de Cine read at the event “Filmmakers under attack: assessment, action”. “We are filmmakers, for us life is creation. The work we create is free, which is why some of our governments view us as criminals. Some filmmakers were banned from making films and others were forced into exile. However, the hope of re-creation is the reason for our existence,” the director said in his short statement.

These words perfectly sum up the spirit of the filmmaker, who once again shows Not a bear which can overcome any kind of adversity and manage to be excited and driven. He achieves one of his great films, and he does so by constructing a narrative artifact where reality and fiction mix and mingle, and where the message is clear: fear is any regime’s tool to keep its citizens captive.

The film opens with an Iranian couple talking about fleeing the country. He got a fake passport, but she didn’t. They argue about breaking up, running away, or waiting until they go together. Suddenly the camera pans away, from Panahi’s laptop, and there we see him, the director, who becomes, as in his last films, the film’s character and chronicler. It is far from the director, from a small town near the Turkish border, where there are two performers, they cannot film in Iran. A Matryoshka Stories that unfold and begin to reveal new layers as these actors also want to escape Turkey in real life.

The title refers to a way of intimidating the people of the town where Panah is located so that they don’t cross the border. There, he gets involved in an event when he takes a photo of a couple in love. She was engaged after she was born in the tradition of giving a woman’s umbilical cord as a child to the man she will marry without refusal. The director takes advantage of this and criticizes the traditions of the old, reactionary country, which frightens everyone who wants freedom.

Both stories are intertwined, unite and intelligently feed each other. Panahi’s camera plays and becomes another character, but not as a director’s whim, but always consistent. A wonder that is also a new blow from the director to the Iranian regime. Animal, direct and unceremonious criticism, but not mere criticism, but delivered in a game in which one never knows whether what one sees is the truth or the fiction of the actors who directly challenge them. Because everyone in Iran is in a similar situation. There is no boundary between man and character, because everyone wants to escape and no one can.

Not a bear It contains one of the most powerful scenes seen at the Venice Film Festival, when the hero stops the stage spinning to break the fourth wall, talks to Panahi himself and, among other things, looks the audience directly in the eye. How much has to be sacrificed, do you have the right to be afraid if you get tired of fighting? A powerful and substantial work, which is all the more powerful knowing that Panahi is behind bars while it appears in Venice, and that it may be the last of one of the seminal insights of recent Iranian cinema.

Source: El Diario

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