No Bears

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

Iranian Director Jafar Panahi (“This is Not a Film”) directs the existential thriller “No Bears.” This eerie film has a meandering yet sinister rhythm and will keep you on edge with its threat and suspicion.

The director Panahi plays himself. He is busy covertly directing a relationship drama. Panahi is constantly losing the signal on his computer and smartphone, losing his upload capability to complete his project.

Forced to accept some downtime, Panahi wanders around the village and takes a random picture of a boy and a girl during their engagement party. Panahi doesn’t think anything of it.

The next day he is approached by the girl Gozal (Darya Alei) on a deserted road who begs him to forget any possibility of pictures. Panahi agrees, asserting that the never took any pictures of the engagement.

Gozal is relieved.

Soon after, Panahi’s assistant Ghanbar (Vahid Mobaseri) tells him that the village has been badgering him about the sneaky picture, which has ignited a family feud involving a rival suitor Solduz (Amir Davar). Panahi maintains that he doesn’t recall taking the picture. But the village sheriff insists that it is obvious that the picture was indeed taken.

Panahi again claims that no picture of the young girl Gozal was taken.

The village elders interrogate the director Panahi, who throws up his hands in frustration.

There is a subplot involving the idealist Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei) and a smitten Zara (Mina Kavani) driven to despair because of immigration troubles.

Both stories involve oppression, fear and the claustrophobia of Sharia law.

With a restless camera, desolate roads saturated with dust and splashes of blood, the tension becomes unbearable and one feels the need to fidget in the movie seat.

In real life, the director has always been outspoken and suppressed. Panahi spent six years and jail and experienced a hunger strike. Because of this, in addition to his tireless creative efforts, Panahi remains one of Iran’s most striking activists for social and political change.

And in “No Bears” this auteur is in top form with echoes of Kafka and Hitchcock.

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