Jafar Panahi Jessica Kiang Iran city Venice film shootings gossips Jafar Panahi Jessica Kiang Iran city Venice

‘No Bears’ Review: Jafar Panahi’s Inventive, Illuminating Autofiction Builds to a Tragic New Twist in the Tale

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Jessica Kiang When the definitive book on dissident filmmaking is written, it will have at least several chapters and a lengthy appendix dedicated to Iran’s Jafar Panahi, who has now covertly made five astonishingly resourceful features since being banned from filmmaking by the Iranian authorities in 2010.

But given those circumstances, perhaps the biggest ongoing surprise of his career has been just how lively his illegally shot films have been — even while, as metafictions, they refer continually to the hampered circumstances of their creation. “No Bears,” which premieres in competition in Venice, certainly starts in that register, with a rugpull or two and handful of seriocomic, absurdist observations on the foibles of Iranian village life.

But then, as though it were anticipating the worsening political situation which culminated in Panahi’s detention in July 2022 for a six-year prison sentence, the mood darkens, prior to an ambiguous but devastating finale which seems to even include the director’s own tendency toward playfulness in its critique.

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