Iranian Cinema is Still Moving Ahead

in 35th Montreal World Film Festival

by György Kárpáti

There are cumuli above the Iranian cinema nowadays, though the productive film industry is still very effective. While Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasulov are being jailed and banned from filmmaking because of political reasons, Iranian filmmaking is otherwise still shining. Winning the Golden Bear in Berlin with Nader and Simin, a Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) by Asghar Farhadi and now in the competition section in Montreal – in another ‘A’ category film festival – it looks like the Iranian success story is still going on. Here Without Me (Inja bedoone man) by Bahram Tavakoli is after all a strange cultural collision, where the Persian traditions meets American culture, thanks to the fact that the movie is an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, “The Glass Menagerie”. This fact sounds strange hearing it the first time because the Second World War period drama and its conflicts could have been easily adapted into the real-life Iran of recent times. The film – shot in Tehran – is about a mother and her two children: one dreamer boy and a mentally disturbed girl. The mother’s only wish is to keep the family together and to endow her daughter. But little things cause big trouble and ‘the family picture’ slowly falls apart.          

Bahram Tavakoli has succeeded in mixing the past and present well, using the original story’s conflicts and also by putting in some new ones from the recent Iran. The fear of unemployment, the discontent of the society and the old traditions of getting married in the middle-east region are well presented in the plot. People seem confused and doubtful in Here Without Me, even in their family affairs or in public conditions. The commitments are very smooth but direct in the film, giving deeper aspects to the story. And still, despite the local aspect, somehow the content is also relevant at an eternal level.              

Here Without Me was doubtless a bright moment at The Montreal World Film Festival which also apprehended the jury into giving Fatehmeh Motamed-Arya the Best Actress prize. At this point we also have to praise the Iranian acting which is a very key element of the latest successes of the recent films (also in Nader and Simin). The artists are very moving, emotional and natural, and help in connecting the audience to the tougher social issues. In Here Without Me Fatehmeh Motamed-Arya indeed gives the finest performance as the mother, but Negar Javaherian and Saber Abbar also prove their talent. The artists make good use of their theatre experience filling the space. They use the interiors as a stage and are able to keep the attention of the audience and convey some suspense.          

With Here Without Me Bahram Tavakoli shows some potential and power, which is a very important message from the Iranian cinema. We’re tenaciously hoping that, with the help of continuing and dogged ambitions from its makers, we can enjoy more and more remarkable cinema experiences made in the Persian country.

Edited by Steven Yates