Do Not Worry Sara

in 9th Eurasia International Film Festival

by Manuel Halpern

Some films are high budgeted, some are low budgeted, and others have no budget at all. Budget is an important issue. Cinema is an expensive art. And, theoretically, artistic choices are directly proportional to the budget. Or are they? As we all know, sometimes it is the other way around, and money only brings more restrictions to creative risks.

Alireza Amini, an Iranian filmmaker, presented at 9th Eurasian International Film Festival, in Almaty, his film Do Not Worry Sara, which he called a ‘no budget’ film, or a smart manner of making good cinema without spending too much money.

Basically, he worked with a bunch of friends, and home video camera, deploying techniques, usually associated with documentaries. But the film is not an Iranian Blair Witch Project either!

Iran has had a great precedent in this vein: the ‘non film’ that Jafar Panahi sent secretly to Cannes, while he was under house arrest and prevented from shooting due to political reasons. This case is different. Do Not Worry Sara reveals the talent of an almost unknown Iranian director. It is presented as a video letter. Elaheh and Siavash are getting married, and they are making a tape for their friend, who cannot attend the wedding.

In the first half of the film, we follow the couple as they deliver the invitations and take care of the minutest details. It’s a long run. And works like a documentary about Tehran and its suburbs in a mode that we are not used to. Everything looks perfect. The bridegroom is always so sweet even when his car runs out of gas, and the future bride is as beautiful as a princess. The first half is a nostalgic longing for an even more perfect future, where the proverbial ‘happily-ever-after’ life is awaiting them.

Despite all the natural uncertainties of a marriage, in its second half the film becomes as tragic as they come, producing a deep shock that turns everything on its head, and in a painfully ironic way at that. It resembles these terrible stories or urban myths, common to so many countries and cultures, which tell about a bride who becomes widowed before she even gets married. All these happy details of the celebration preparation thus turn sour in the second part – are tears of joy not just as salty as tears of pain?

The film confronts us with life itself, and the way feelings change profoundly without explanation or preparation. This unpretentious look at the Iranian society easily becomes an universal reflection on human condition.

Technically, Aminiis is very creative. The camera is thus always held by one of the characters, who are aware of its presence, which means that technical infelicities are justified by the film aesthetics. Yet even a no-budget film should be more careful with the lighting (in some scenes it is awfully poor). Unfortunately, however, after the accident in the second part of the film, the camera movements cease to be justified as they were in the first part, which is really unnecessary and breaks the logical structure of the film.

Do Not Worry Sara is a film, entirely comprising of creative risks, and it works, demonstrating that Iranian cinematic culture is so far above the average that even a low budget film achieves high intensity.

Edited by Christina Stojanova