In his latest film, shot in secret, Iranian director Jafar Panahi explores the subversive power and ethical limits of filmmaking. His No Bears tells three different stories all in one. The main story is about himself, making his fifth film in defiance of the 2010 ban that forbade him from making films and leaving Iran. From a small village near the Turkish border, he is remotely directing a film crew. The story of the film he’s directing is based on the real-life story of the main characters, two refugees from Iran who are trying to flee to Europe. Panahi’s stay in the small village is the setting for a third story about a forbidden love. It's a meta version of a film within a film about making a film.
Language: FARSI, Azeri, Turkish, Persian, subtitles: English
Genre: drama, docu-fiction crossover
This film feels like a window to a world into which we have no access. We see the border village through the eyes of a big city and famous filmmaker, and we see how he uses the lives of his actors to make a film about refugees, until reality interferes with the story. The film contains two parallel love stories in which the partners are thwarted by hidden, inevitable obstacles, the force of superstition, and the mechanics of power. In this slippery mise en abyme of documentary and fiction, the only indisputable truth is the figure of Panahi himself, who has made his own being the primary material of his work over the past decade. Older and visibly more tired, Panahi offers in No Bears a bitter meditation on the dangers of image-making, even as he asserts its necessity in the face of superstition and limitation by governmental rules.
The rather complicated set up of this film gives us a glimpse into many different parts of Iranian life. No Bears raises questions about the role of the filmmaker and the dissolving boundaries between fiction and reality, as his actions prove to have great consequences in real life. Many lives are touched, most of them changed by the end of the film, unfortunately not all for the better.
This film will be preceded by slides with background information to give context to the film.
“Panahi, whose courage and honesty are beyond doubt, has made a movie that calls those very qualities into question, a movie about its own ethical limits and aesthetic contradictions.” The New York Times
“Panahi deftly juggles his stories, merging them together in the devastating final minutes of No Bears.” The Boston Globe
While No Bears is profoundly powerful in its own right, the knowledge that its maker is incarcerated* gives its explorations of exile, truth, and freedom a throat-catching urgency. - Vulture
(* Panahi was temporarily released from prison on bail on February 2nd 2023 after a hunger strike)
Special Jury Prize Venice Film Festival, amongst others.
This film will be shown at Filmhuis De Zwarte Doos. Buying a ticket online in advance is mandatory if you want to attend this film. You can buy a ticket by clicking on the black “order” button on this page.
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The Studium Generale film program is selected in collaboration with the Student Film Committee and Natlab.