• L-R: The Circle, The White Balloon, Offside (SBS Movies)Source: SBS Movies
Three compelling realist studies of three different generations of resilient women in contemporary Iran (and one self-portrait from Panahi himself, made under house arrest) from one of the country's most fearless and influential filmmakers.
SBS Movies

30 Jul 2019 - 3:30 PM  UPDATED 22 Dec 2020 - 5:29 PM

In March of 2010, renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi made international headlines after being arrested following nearly a decade of conflict with the Iranian government, and charged with "assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic". Numerous filmmakers and members of the international film community called for his release (among them, Martin Scorsese, Roger Ebert, Juliette Binoche, as well as compatriots Asghar Farhadi, Golshifteh Farahani and his two-time co-writer Abbas Kiarostami) when a twenty year prison sentence and filmmaking ban were imposed on him. To this day, Panahi isn't allowed to leave Iran, and makes his films under severely compromised circumstances.

Nonetheless, he's found creative ways around his restrictions; most notably in 2011, when he made the documentary This Is Not a Film in his apartment while under house arrest, and smuggled it into that year's Cannes Film Festival via a USB hidden within a cake. On SBS World Movies this August, we showcase three multiple-award-winning films by Panahi made prior to his sentence, each of which offer enthrallingly insightful, documentary-like portraits of resilient women in contemporary Iran.



The White Balloon

Iran, 1995
Genre: Family, Drama
Language: Persian
Director: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Aida Mohammadkhani, Mohsen Kafili, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Anna Borkowska
What's it about?
Several people try to take advantage of a little girl's innocence to hustle money her mom gave to her to buy a goldfish with. An international success and the winner of the Camera d'Or at Cannes in 1995, this charming parable celebrates tenacity, ingenuity, and the wide-eyed innocence of youth. Co-written by the legendary Abbas Kiarostami (The Taste of Cherry, Close-Up, Certified Copy).

The Circle

Iran, 2000
Genre: Drama
Language: Persian
Director: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Maryiam Palvin Almani, Nargess Mamizadeh, Mojgan Faramarzi
What's it about?
A dramatic depiction of the oppression and discrimination against women in Iran. Three women on leave from prison try to fit into society, with little success. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival. 

The Circle Review (by David Stratton)


Iran, 2006
Genre: Comedy
Language: Persian
Director: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Sima Mobarak-Shahi, Shayesteh Irani, Ayda Sadeqi
What's it about?
Five young women go to extraordinary lengths to watch Iran's 2006 World Cup qualifier in a stadium where women have been banned. Filmed during the actual football game between Iran and Bahrain in 2005. Winner of the Jury Grand Prix at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, and the last feature film made by Panahi before his arrest in 2010 and subsequent filmmaking ban.


Closed Curtain

Iran, 2013
Genre: Drama
Language: Persian-Farsi
Director: Kambuzia Partovi, Jafar Panahi
Starring: Abolghasem Sobhani, Azadeh Torabi, Hadi Saeedi, Maryam Moqadam, Kambuzia Partovi, Jafar Panahi
What's it about?
They are both on the run: the man with the dog he isn’t allowed to own because Islamic law deems it to be unclean, and the young woman who took part in an illicit party on the shores of the Caspian Sea. They barricade themselves into a secluded villa with curtained windows and eye each other suspiciously. Why has he shaved his head? How does she know he is being followed by the police? They are both now prisoners in a house without a view in the midst of a hostile environment. The second film Panahi made during his filmmaking ban, after 2011's This Is Not A Film.

Video: David & Margaret review 'The White Balloon' and 'The Circle' on The Movie Show (1996 & 2001):

The Movie Show reviews The White Balloon. The Movie Show Episode 26 1996

The Movie Show reviews The Circle. The Movie Show Episode 02 2002


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