Combustible Celluloid Review - No Bears (2022), Jafar Panahi, Jafar Panahi, Jafar Panahi, Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobasheri, Bakhtiyar Panjeei, Mina Kavani, Narges Delaram, Reza Heydari, Javad Siyahi, Yousef Soleymani, Amir Davari, Darya Alei
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Jafar Panahi, Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobasheri, Bakhtiyar Panjeei, Mina Kavani, Narges Delaram, Reza Heydari, Javad Siyahi, Yousef Soleymani, Amir Davari, Darya Alei
Written by: Jafar Panahi
Directed by: Jafar Panahi
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Persian, Azerbaijani, with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 12/23/2022
IMDB

No Bears (2022)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Bear in Mind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jafar Panahi continues to make outlaw films, defying the Iranian government's 20-year-ban on filmmaking he is saddled with. When this began, his This Is Not a Film was shot on video, mostly in Panahi's apartment. The new No Bears is far more elaborate, a full-fledged professional film, juggling complex and unsettling themes and incorporating cinema itself as a metaphor. It tells two intertwining stories. Panahi, playing himself, is staying in a little village near the Turkish border. He is directing a film, remotely, about an Iranian couple — apparently playing their real selves — who are trying to escape their oppression by obtaining illegal passports. Unfortunately, Panahi's internet connection fails, so he takes to wandering around and snapping photos.

The leaders of the village approach him and demand that he turn over a photo he supposedly took of a young couple. The issue is that the woman, due to a local custom, was betrothed at birth to one man, but loves another man. The villagers manage to get Panahi's memory card, but still demand that he come to the "swear room" and promise that he meant no harm. The title, you may be wondering, comes during a small moment that's almost a throwaway but contains volumes. In order to get to the swear room, Panahi must take a dark path through the village; at first he's warned about bears, but a few minutes later, he's told: "there are no bears." The oppression that Panahi and his characters endure are, thus, not much more than arbitrary fairy tales: "Things are this way because we say so." Panahi is a warrior, continuing to fight against this authoritarian way of thinking.

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