No Bears by Jafar Panahi

Iranian cinema filmed in 2022

Iranian “New Wave” cinema seems to forsake narrative in favour of mood, in favour of speculative thought. The recently reviewed “A Time for Drunken Horses” by Bahman Ghobadi is an exception: this is straight storytelling, direct and true. “No Bears” also concerns itself with the pressing matter of border-smuggling but as a category of film it is something new: there is a narrative but there is also the constant presence of the filmmaker, Panahi himself. He attempts to stay neutral and only by the end is it clear the Panah may be well-meaning and detached but he is also the creator of much of the chaos that ensues. Panahi is accidentally embroiled in two parallel love stories, one the topic of a film in Turkey he is making whilst imprisoned in Iran, and the other a “matter of honour” in the village he has adopted as his temporary residence. Both end in tragedy and one is left wondering: what was Panahi’s responsibility or obligation to the subjects of this film? It was a thought-provoking and suspenseful film.

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