No Bears, dir. Jafar Panahi, Iran 2022, 107 min., Azeri / Farsi / Turkish with English subtitles, 12A
The Iranian government banned Jafar Panahi from making films in 2010, but the director has continued to work regardless – even smuggling one feature, 2011’s This Is Not a Film, out of the country on a USB stick hidden in a cake. Panahi was apparently detained in August to serve a six-year sentence, but not before completing this typically smart and engaging feature, winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.
Panahi plays himself, or at least a version of himself – a filmmaker trying to direct a feature in Turkey while forced to remain in an Iranian village. As his actors perform the story of their attempted escape to Europe, Panahi finds himself coming up against both suspicion and tradition. The filmmaker’s richest and most complex work to date, No Bears is both a witty self-portrait and a compelling act of artistic and political expression.
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