Add News     Print  
Article List
Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (left), and Iranian actor Peima Moadi laugh on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of their movie ‘Ghessea’ presented in competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival
Bani-Etemad strings together ‘Tales’ of crushed hopes, addiction, abuse & love ‘Sick children pay price for sanctions’

 VENICE, Aug 29, (Agencies): Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad on Thursday urged the West to lift sanctions on her country as she presented her latest film at the Venice Film Festival, laying bare their devastating effects on the population.

“The economic situation in Iran is critical due to the sanctions, which penalise the people. They must be lifted, and the people compensated,” said the award-winning director, known for her socially-driven documentaries and films.

“Our sick children, those with cancer or multiple sclerosis for example, are paying the price,” she said in reference to US and EU sanctions imposed in a bid to deter Iran from developing its uranium enrichment program. Hundreds of thousands of seriously-ill Iranians are affected by both dire shortages of life-saving medicines and their inability to pay for them.

Under an interim agreement with world powers which came into effect in January, Iran agreed to scale back part of its nuclear programme in return for a partial lifting of Western sanctions. November has been set as the deadline for a final deal.

“When will people realise that it is the people who suffer the consequences of international decisions?” she asked at a press conference on Lido island.

Her latest film “Tales” is a collection of stories highlighting the difficulties the lower classes face in today’s society, from unemployed factory workers to poor or drug-addled women or those at risk of domestic violence.

We hear from the characters that prices have shot up 40 percent and people are going months without getting paid, while one distraught woman unable to pay for the medicine her child needs tries to sell her body.

The stories take us all over Bani-Etemad’s Tehran, with tales of patriarchal abuse, forced imprisonment and prostitution unfolding in taxis, trains and buses — each marked by fear, but also acts of courage and love.

In “Tales.” The film was ostensibly conceived as a series of shorts, making it possible to get a license under the Ahmadinejad regime, but with the current government she’s been able to string together these stories of crushed hopes, addiction, abuse, and love.


 Like much here, the use of a docu filmmaker as a protag to make pointed remarks about the necessity of socially engaged cinema is rather too easy, yet the script excels at dialogue negotiating the male-female divide. A small international release is possible.

For the past eight years, Bani-Etemad stuck to documentaries, unwilling to make the compromises necessary under Ahmadinejad to get a feature made. Now that Iran’s government is friendlier to culture, she’s released this film, begun under the previous regime. It’s helpful, but hardly necessary, to be familiar with Bani-Etemad’s previous work (“Under the City’s Skin,” “Gilaneh,” etc), since the characters in “Tales” are mostly people she’s brought in from earlier pics. Knowing them provides additional depth, though there’s no loss of comprehension without it.

Equally, an acquaintance with the director’s themes — drug addiction, prostitution, working-class issues — strengthens some of these stories, enabling long-time followers to see where she’s going. That’s a good and bad thing, since there’s an obviousness in “Tales” that means, as far as storylines are concerned, the film offers few surprises. However, a fine ear for conversations and a sure-handed way with many of Iran’s top actors continually spark interest.

A docu helmer (Habib Rezaei) is making a movie about workers trampled by the corrupt capitalist machine. He speaks with Abbas (Mohammadreza Forootan), a taxi driver by necessity, working extra shifts to get out of the financial hole he tumbled into after seriously bad choices seen in “Under the City.” Abbas picks up a woman and sick kid thinking they’ll be regular clients —the mother turns out to be childhood friend Masoomeh (Mehraveh Sharifinia), now a prostitute.

Abbas’ mother, Tooba (Golab Adineh), is trying to get nine months’ back-pay from her former bosses, who closed down the factory and ran off. At a government office the illiterate woman is helped by another petitioner, Mohammad Halimi (Mehdi Hashemi), screwed by the system and now compounded by an obnoxious bureaucrat (Hassan Majooni). Halimi’s basic decency is constantly tested by contemporary society — even on the subway, he overhears what he thinks is an extramarital couple into S&M.


They’re actually brother (Babak Hamidian) and sister (Negar Javaherian) plotting to stage the sister’s kidnapping to punish their rich father (presumably these two will reappear in Bani-Etemad’s next movie). Also on the subway is Dr Dabiri (Shahrokh Forootanian), the one-armed doctor from “Gilaneh,” volunteering at an NGO for addicted women run by Monshizadeh (Rima Raminfar). She tries to protect Nargess (Atefeh Razavi, playing the same character from “Nargess”), a frightened woman whose abusive husband scarred her face with boiling water.

Reza (Farhad Aslani), a former co-worker with Tooba, is suspicious when his wife, Nobar (Fatemeh Motamed Aria), receives a letter from her former husband. Worn down by suspicion and crushed dreams, Nobar, last seen in “The Blue-Veiled,” isn’t prepared for the missive’s contents. The last and best tale is set in a taxi, where former addict Sarah (Baran Kosari) is escorting a suicidal junkie back to the residence. Driver Hamed (Peiman Moadi, “A Separation”), a would-be engineer kicked out of university because of his political activism, is interested in Sarah, but the flinty young woman, last seen in “Mainline,” has erected numerous walls around herself.

Of course the documaker returns at the end, saying things like “no film ever stays in a drawer” — lines that pointedly refer back to Bani-Etemad as well as all filmmakers who push the boundaries of freedom of expression in censorious societies. The sentiment is important, yet did it really need to be so baldly stated, as if viewers weren’t already aware of the character’s purpose? More interesting is the conception of male-female relations, from the older couples in which women are long-suffering victims of impotent male rage to the younger generation, whose women display marked intellectual superiority and demand to be considered as equals.

Especially for audiences unfamiliar with the director’s past work, it was vital that the actors imbue their characters with enough interest to suggest significant depth during their brief screen time. Fortunately, that’s not a problem, and all the performances here are fluid, relaxed and well rounded. It’s especially good to see Motamed Aria’s welcome return to film, after several years of being banned from working. Worth singling out, too, are Kosari and Moadi, beautiful negotiating the complex interplay in the pic’s penultimate scene, and making the wordiness feel vital.

Tech credits are equally strong in all the tales. However, using the docu helmer’s DV cam onscreen is unnecessary and distracting.

Read By: 1637
Comments: 0

You must login to add comments ...
About Us   |   RSS   |   Contact Us   |   Feedback   |   Advertise With Us