'Hit the road' by Panah Panahi.

Bozar zooms in on Iranian cinema

Niels Ruëll

Iranian film directors have long excelled at their craft, despite the difficult circumstances that they work in. Bozar’s close-up on Iranian cinema reminds us of that.

Regardless of how hard successive ayatollahs and regimes try to silence Iranian film directors, they fail. Iranian films travel around the world. Although sometimes with a bit of a delay. See, for example, Chess of the Wind (1976) by Mohammad Reza Aslani. This masterpiece, acclaimed for its hypnotic style, is a feverish thriller about the disintegration of a wealthy family. For decades, the pearl of Iranian New Wave cinema was thought to be lost. Cancelled due to success.

But in 2014, the director’s son was looking for vintage material for a film in a second-hand shop and bumped into a copy of the banned film. The film cans were smuggled to his sister in France. In 2020, the 4K restoration was greeted with great acclaim. Bozar will show the film during a three-day close-up on Iranian cinema.

Another eye-catcher is the avant-première of Hit the Road (theatrical release: 27/4), Panah Panahi’s debut film. We know his father Jafar Panahi as the director of powerful films like The White Balloon and who continues to make films despite prison sentences, intimidation and a ban on working. If necessary, he smuggles them out of Iran in a birthday cake.

In Hit the Road a family of four travels by car across the vast expanses of Iran. The eldest son fled the regime but nobody talks about that. The unsuspecting youngest plays the clown and starts singing and dancing. There is laughter, bickering, remembrance, listening and invisible crying. Like any family on a long road-trip, just a little more intense because they are four characters and the family is no stranger to a bit of drama. Like no family, for there is no manual for saying goodbye to a son or brother who is forced to run away from the family, from the country. Despite the heavy subject matter, it is a gentle, funny and wistful road-movie.

27 > 30/3, Bozar, www.bozar.be

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