Film Review: No Bears

Making a film involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It also demands a huge commitment on the part of the filmmakers, both personally and often financially. It can be a labour of love, but all directors are not equal when it comes to bringing their projects to fruition. Especially when they live under an oppressive regime. Jafar Panahi has been waging an ongoing battle with the Iranian authorities for most of this century. He is currently in jail while his new film, No Bears, is being released.

Panahi is making a new film, but this time he’s hiding out in a small village near the Turkish border. Instructing his Assistant Director (Reza Heydari), who is filming elsewhere, via an unreliable internet link. Zara (Mina Kavani) has been waiting to flee the country for years and finally Bakhtiar (Bakhtiar Panjei) has acquired a fake passport for her. However, he’s had no such luck. While the director, banned from leaving the country himself, struggles for a signal, he becomes accidentally embroiled in a love triangle.

It’s hard to really quantify just how important it is that films like No Bears are made and find an audience. Winner of the Special Jury prize at Venice, Panahi once again employs his unique neo-realism style to tackle injustices in his homeland. Creating two parallel stories which consider relationships within a traditional, misogynistic and religious society. No Bears is one of his most ambitious works yet and while it tackles a number of serious issues, there’s always room for his wry humour.

No Bears opens in UK cinemas in 11 November.

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