Man Of Integrity

in 70th Cannes International Film Festival

by Pierre Pageau

The movies in the 2017 section «Un certain regard» of Cannes were of great quality. Our jury did give his prize to Tesnota, the Russian movie by Kantemir Balagov. But we did also consider the Iranian movie Lerd (A Man of Integrity) by Mohammad Rasoulof. We should mention that Lerd did win the «Grand Prix» by the official jury of «Certain Regard». Many other movies, like the two movies from Bulgaria would be worth knowting : Western and Posoki.

The director of Lerd, Mohammad Rasoulof, was not a new figure for us. In 2013 he had given us Manuscrits Don’t Burn (Dast- Neveshtehaa Nemisoosand) ; that movie had won a Fipresci prize. In 2012, his movie Goodbye (Bé omid é didar) was shown while he was in prison in Iran. The movie did receive the prize for Best director, but he could not be in Cannes to receive it. Already Goodbye wanted to show the violence with which the Iranians who take issue are confronted. The more you are conscious of injustices the more you have to take side, with all the consequences. As a conscious citizen will you take part in the political and social system ? With his new movie Lerd, he comes back in a way to that idea. In Lerd a man, Reza, wants to live his life with total integrity. He lives with his wife and son and runs a goldfish farm (we know by so many Iranian movies the importance of the goldfish). Reza needs water for his pound to breed these fishes. Locals cut his water supply. He asks for justice, for integrity. He will find out that he has to compromise with the social and political forces in presence. At the end he can even become the mayor, and could continue the injust, oppressive and corrupt system. In fact the original title Lerd means «wine lees» or «wine sediment»; what is left when the good wine is finished. A sort of metaphorical understanding is necessary to see that it is a reference to what happens to Reza. He becomes the lee of the society. The hero of Lerd could remind of us of the dissident of Manuscripts Don’t Burn who wants to flea the country. For somebody who has been sentenced to six year of prison we can understand the reference. In fact Rasoulof is now in a form of liberty but always watched by the religious power in place in Iran. This movie does then continue the portrait of life in Iran as a schizophrenic society. In Lerd, as in the two other movies of Rasoulof, we can clearly see that the political situation creates chaos in the general society, but also for the individuals. The love affair of our couple in Lerd is disrupted by the social corruption around them. A good, normal, love story seems very difficult in Iran, specially it has a sexual component. This year in the «Semaine de la critique» section there was a movie called Teheran Tabou that just said the same thing, with another form.

The general tone of Lerd (A Man of Integrity) is one of realism, but Rasoulof shows us many time his main character in a sort of magical cave, where the sound and colors create a different world. Is he then out of his country? Finding a sort of peace? This natural space around his house is being filmed with great realism, and introduce us to the love Reza has for his home, specially the inside on his house. Rasoulof is now living in Germany with his family. This information, extra-filmic, does give the spectator of a very special sense of what a political movie can be in 2013-17 in Iran. In 2017 Rasoulof could come to the Cannes Film Festival to receive his prize. The same day his movie was shown was the election of Rohani as president of Iran. A sign, maybe, that the country of Mohammad Rasoulof will get rid of all forms of corruption. Movies can, at least, help us to ask questions.

Edited by Alissa Simon