At one point Iranian cinema, pushed to the wall by a ruthless regime that did not believe in giving artistic freedom, had to make mostly movies with children or about children. There were a few who did dare to stick their necks out, and paid the price. Jafer Panahi is a classic case. Arrested, he spent a long time in prison, and was later confined to his home. He still is, and is not being allowed to travel.At the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival, I noticed that Iranian directors had cleverly found a way out of the prevailing repressiveness. They have begun to make a cinema that while seemingly talking about people trapped in challenging situations was actually underlining issues that had far wider ramifications. Yes, these are never overtly told,
Sepideh Farsi’s The House Under The Water follows two teens who cause the accidental drowning of a child. One of them goes to jail, and it is only 30 years later that he is freed, but only to find himself a suspect in another drowning death.
Mohsen Abdolvahab weaves three stories into his Please Do Not Disturb. In one, we see a woman beaten by her husband hesitating to formally complain to the police. In the second, a clergyman begins a negotiation with a thief, and the last segment focuses on an elderly couple scared to open the door to a young mechanic, who has to come to repair their broken television set.
The Hunter from Rafi Pitts turns a murderer after his wife and six-year-old child are killed in the run-up to Iran’s disputed 2009 elections.
We see in these movies a strong underlying moral dilemma of the individual, but on a closer look, it is apparent that the helmers are in effect talking about how State authority has been interfering in the personal freedom and liberty of the man and the woman on the street.
One is not sure whether these films would ultimately find screening spaces in Iran. Or, much like the others of their ilk be confined to foreign festival circuits, appreciated and applauded, even feted and celebrated. Sadly though the ordinary Iranian might never get around watching movies that tell his story.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival)