By Munyira Douglas
3 Faces made its North American premiere at TIFF ‘18 and VIBE 105 was in attendance along with a packed theatre. Iranian Writer-Director Jafar Panahi, plays himself and is one of three main characters in this steady-paced ‘mockumentary’ styled film.
The film finds Panahi and film star Jafari Behnaz travel to an Iranian village investigating the apparent suicide of a young, aspiring actress Marziyeh Rezaei. Rezaei tries to escape the traditional village life and impending domesticity and pursue her dreams but is constantly thwarted by family and village members.
Winning Best Screenplay at Cannes ‘18, the film explores rejection of cultural traditions and the desire to follow one’s creative artistry. It opens with a shocking apparent suicide which leaves the audience, Panahi and Behnaz understandably troubled. From there we follow Panahi and Behnaz navigate throughout the village to uncover the truth.
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Panahi has directed several films, all which have been festival screenings including The White Balloon, The Mirror and The Circle. 3 Faces uses steady panoramic shots of Iran’s mountainous scenery and rough terrain. There is a strong emphasis on the isolation and seclusion of the village – just as their customs remain unchanged and traditional, so too does the landscape. The villagers are content with their separation from the outside world and reject foreign influence. And so, the dreams of Marziyeh to become an actor sends her family and community into a frenzy.
The film is easily suspenseful, dramatic and comedic all at the same time. Despite the overall sombre tone of the production, Panahi sporadically injects witty banter - often between himself, Behnaz and the villagers. In such a moment, one of the villagers explains to Panahi about their traditional cow-mating festival, which finds neighboring cowherders migrate to their village with the intention of breeding with his special cow. The entire dialogue just seemed so unbelievable and ridiculous and like Panahi we are left skeptical at the villager’s revelation. It is not until later in the film do we confirm its truth, which makes the scene even more hilarious.
Panahi has been banned from leaving his country since 2010, for “colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” He is currently facing a 20-year ban on traveling abroad, communicating with the media and writing or directing any films. Of course, the latter has not ceased him from distributing his work through special means.
*Editor’s note: 3 Faces was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18.