DC Festival of Films from Iran

DC Festival of Films from Iran

Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021


Schedule of Events

Dance With Me

Jahangir, a depressed middle-aged intellectual, invites his friends to his villa in the country for a weekend-long birthday celebration, where he reveals that he has only a few months to live. If the premise sounds depressing, Soroush Sehat's debut feature is anything but. Deftly mixing poignant moments with dark comedy, Dance with Me is reminiscent of The Big Chill in the way jealousies, rivalries, and good-humored fellowship play out among this group of old friends amidst the villa's idyllic natural surroundings. Sehat even adds touches of surrealism, such as a classical string ensemble that occasionally appears to Jahangir alone, and a cheeky re-enactment of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. Winner of the best director and best actor awards at the 2019 Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran.

Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Soroush Sehat

African Violet

This tender and moving film begins with Shokoo, a middle-aged woman, relocating her elderly ex-husband from a nursing facility into her own home so she and her current husband can care for him. The fact that the ex-husband refuses to speak to them is the first clue that all will not be well with this arrangement, and when neighborhood gossip begins to irk Shokoo's current spouse, the marriage is strained even further. Aided by rich and subtle performances from her three main actors, director Mona Zandi Haghighi builds her movie around three flawed, complex, but ultimately compassionate characters discovering how love can transform over time.

Runtime: 93 minutes
Director: Mona Zandi Haghighi

Careless Crime

Shahram Mokri, whose single-take feature Fish and Cat wowed audiences six years ago, returns with a brilliantly constructed reflection on cinema and its importance in Iranian culture. In it, four men in contemporary Iran plot to replicate a horrific arson attack on a movie theater that occurred during the Iranian Revolution and killed 478 people. Meanwhile, inside the theater, the audience assembles to watch a film by Shahram Mokri called Careless Crime about an unexploded missile in the countryside. Mokri weaves these meta-cinematic and meta-historical narratives together until fact, fiction, past, and present merge. In this "pure stroke of genius" (Martin Kudlac, Screen Anarchy), "time doesn't just shift…it also folds like origami and pirouettes, the past and present so close as they dance they can feel each other's breath." (Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film). Winner of the Silver Hugo Jury Prize at the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival, and the award for best screenplay at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

Runtime: 134 minutes
Director: Shahram Mokri

There Is No Evil

introductory segment that chillingly illustrates the banality of evil, the next three stories examine Iran's policy of forcing conscripted soldiers to carry out executions. In one, a young soldier tries desperately to avoid this gruesome duty. In another, a soldier who has had to perform executions visits his fiancée's family, only to discover a shocking truth. And in the final section, a former doctor must reveal to his niece the family secret that made him abandon his career. Rasoulof's commitment to social and moral justice in films such as this, as well as A Man of Integrity and Manuscripts Don't Burn, resulted in a one-year prison sentence for "propaganda against the system," handed down in March 2020, though he has refused to turn himself in.

Runtime: 150 minutes
Director: Mohammad Rasoulof

Bandar Band

A "music-infused twist on a road movie that's laced with poignant and timely political commentary" (Kiva Reardon, Toronto International Film Festival), Manijeh Hekmat's latest film was shot during the flooding that devastated Iran's Khuzestan Province in 2019. Three young musicians—a husband, his very pregnant wife, and their friend—travel in a van through this surreal, watery landscape, trying to make it to a battle of the bands in Tehran. Their daylong journey includes joyful moments of impromptu music-making, stops to help with relief efforts, and numerous U-turns and setbacks that coalesce into a metaphor for their generation's thwarted dreams. "A stunning visual ode to the shifting landscapes of Hekmat's native Iran."

Runtime: 75 minutes
Director: Manijeh Hekmat

The Slaughterhouse

At the start of this tense thriller, Amir, a young man recently deported from France, is urgently summoned by his father Abed, the nightwatchman at a slaughterhouse, to help hide the bodies of three men who froze to death in a meat locker. Abed's boss's story about the identities of the dead men keeps changing, but when the daughter of one of them shows up, Amir's guilty conscience leads him to seek out answers. He sinks deeper and deeper into the high-stakes illegal underground currency exchange ring in which his boss is enmeshed. Meanwhile, his shared secret with his father threatens to blow up their family. Abbas Amini's skillful direction and gripping performances from the ensemble cast make this an edge-of-your seat tale of crime and its consequences.

Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Abbas Amini


"I've been wishing to dance on the stage for thirty to forty years. But everywhere is a stage for the one who wants to dance," says the unnamed subject of this documentary. Gracefully offers a tender and moving portrait of an 80-year-old man who in his youth was known for dancing at local ceremonies and celebrations dressed as a woman, and now works as a farmer. Since 1979, dancing publicly has been forbidden in Iran, and has been considered particularly sinful for women and trans people. Throughout the film, our protagonist finds discreet reasons for which to dance: to express his art, in pursuit of happiness, and as an act of resistance. Winner of the award for best director at the 2019 Yamagata Documentary Film Festival.

Runtime: 60 minutes
Director: Aram Eshaghi