Cannes: Hollywood Glamour and Persian Drama

Séamas's picture

Angelina Jolie plays the Tigress’ voice in the soon to be released Kung Fu Panda 2 and she showed up on Friday to dazzle the fans and promote the movie. Her husband Brad Pitt will make the journey this evening as he plays a lead role in Terence Malick’s long awaited contemplative opus The Tree of Life. Saturday saw Penelope Cruz walked up the red carpet on Johnny Depp’s arm for Saturday night’s gala screening of Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Lady Gaga is expected any day now to tip the glam scale up a notch further.

The world’s entertainment industry knows how to add that special show biz sparkle to Cannes and Cannes likes that very much, thank you; all the better to give contrast to the tougher fare with films dealing with deep and dark subjects like prostitution, pedophilia and mass murder.


'Be Omid e Didar'

Saturday morning saw another episode of Iranian political drama both off screen and on. In the Un Certain Regard section Be Omid e Didar (Goodbye) by Mohammad Rasoulof played to a full house. The pre-screening presentation had many points in common with the drama that played out in the film itself. Like Jafar Panahi, Rasoulof is detained in Teheran and it was left to the lead actress, Leylah Zareh (seen pictured above), to introduce the film and to tell us that she had just received a phone call that morning saying he had been called in for questioning. She added that she “…did not write the story but I was happy play the role and to transmit this message.” During the filming, she added that there was constant worry that he would again be summoned or arrested.

In the film she plays a young lawyer whose license to practice has been revoked and her husband, a political writer and activist, has had to travel to southern Iran to find menial work. The uncertainty of her life is played out as she seeks to get a visa for her and her husband to leave, while dealing with the fact that she has recently learned she is pregnant.


"The film travels, but the director not"

The film’s style is very simple and calibrated as layers of complications are added to her situation as bureaucratic, political, sentimental, and medical difficulties accumulate. All the while we have the opportunity to observe the modernity of Tehran from the architecture, the residences and the underground metro system. This is in stark contrast with the repression and bureaucracy that is designed to keep any opposition in check. There is a strange scene where uniformed officials come to confiscate her satellite dish and are obliged to put plastic bags over their shoes for apparent hygiene reasons. The film itself was made semi-clandestinely.

Later in the week we will better understand how this could be. Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film which documents his year under threat of prison and may just shed some new light on the absurdity of the situation. How it can be that the film travels but the director not? How films get made but don’t always have official authorisation? That despite everything, there are also several Iranian stands in the marketplace selling films. With each new element of information, two new questions are begged.


Séamas McSwiney is our guest film correspondent and is currently reporting for us directly from Cannes. He has decades of experience in film journalism, with work published in some top international publications.

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