I drew Iran in a World Cup sweepstake last week. I love watching the beautiful game but while my football draw may be short-lived, Iranian cinema has been described as one of the most exciting in the world today.
At the weekend I took my youngest to watch The White Balloon, a charming and gripping film that stays with you. Unlike the World Cup, I could watch this film over and over again.
It offers a subtle and artfully crafted political perspective on contemporary Iran, and it’s salutary to find a film with universal human themes that link us all together. The director Panahi stated, ‘in all my films, you never see an evil character, male or female. I believe everyone is a good person.’
Taking the socio-political stance to one side, The White Balloon shows the world through a child’s eye and captures the wide-eyed wonder of a young girl called Razieh, who is intent on buying a new goldfish in time for Tehran's annual New Year's Day festivities. She carries the film, which is mostly shot in the streets and alleys of a small patch of Tehran.
This is a masterpiece for many reason, but I was moved by the simplicity of story telling, its refreshingly slow pace and its lack of sentimentality. I loved the minimal narrative running alongside stunning imagery. The film has no music, as the background noises become the best soundtrack. And the film doesn’t finish but pauses with a frieze frame of the balloon seller, waiting for one New Year to end and another to begin.
Lovely moments can be created through simple matters. Here you are made to slow down and discover less is more. These are all threads that I for one need to weave into my daily and perhaps decorative life. And like Razieh, we should never take no for an answer.