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Dir: Ali Asgari. Iran-Qatar. 2017. 88
By Allan Hunter, screendaily.com
Source: Doha Film Institute
An Iranian couple get caught in a web of lies in Ali Asgari’s
precisely crafted debut.
the 2018 ‘Sepanta Award’ as the best film at Iranian Film Festival - San
• Orizzonti Competition. Venice Film Festival
• Discovery, Toronto Film Festival
A young couple’s relationship is tested through a long
winter’s night of moral dilemmas and impossible choices in Disappearance
first feature from experienced shorts director Ali
Asgari is a precisely crafted, modestly proportioned drama that
draws out the wider political resonance from a tale of individual
Festival interest and some commercial potential should result
from its high profile exposure at Venice and Toronto.
initially has the feel of film noir as a taxi glides through the shadowy streets
of Tehran. A woman heads to the emergency department of a hospital; we only see
the back of her head and the way her breath catches in the cold night air.
Teenage architecture student
Asgari, the director’s niece) claims to have
been raped. Her blood pressure is low, she is bleeding and may require an
operation. Yet, there is something about the situation that doesn’t ring
Sara is unusually calm and composed. Her
brother Hamed (Amir Reza
Ranjbaran) swiftly arrives at the hospital almost as if he has
been nearby, expecting a call.
Ali Asgari maintains a tight hold
on the material as the night unfolds
There is clearly
something else going on, and Asgari quickly cuts through the
uncertainty to explore the consequences for a young, unmarried couple in Iran
who have become sexually active. As we follow the couple
through a succession of hospital departments, it becomes clear that the need for
urgent medical attention is secondary to the swift judgements of staff and the
unbending rules of the society that surrounds them. It is no coincidence
that the hospitals all have the same bland look or that the characters are
forever walking along anonymous corridors, travelling in circles, trapped in a
labyrinth of bureaucracy and regulations.
Sara has lied to her family, and the
dishonesty spreads like a virus. Her parents cannot know that she has lost her
virginity, and yet it seems unlikely that she can receive proper treatment
without the consent of her parents. Equally, the web of falsehoods and
fabrications starts to take its toll on the trust between the couple.
Sara grows increasingly anxious about Hamed’s
reliability; every absence feels like a chance to abandon her, even if he has
only left to use the toilet.
Operating on a simple human level and building a story through the
accumulation of small details and telling incidents, Disappearance
has an affinity with new Romanian cinema titles like 4
Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days. The story of everyday lives at the mercy of
moral codes that feel outdated to a younger generation also brings to mind Mike Leigh’s Vera
Asgari maintains a tight
hold on the material as the night unfolds; there is little sense of hysteria or
panic, just a steady drip of the shaming consequences that follow from the
breaking of one taboo.
Newcomer Sadaf Asgari may not be
the most expressive of performers but her inexperience does help to convey a
sense of someone in shock, frozen in the glare of a situation spiralling beyond
control or easy resolution.
Production company: Three Gardens Film
International sales: New Europe Film Sales firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Ali Sadraie, Pouria Heidary Oureh
Cinematography: Ashkan Ashkani
Editor: Ehsan Vaseghi
Production design: Saeid Asadi
Music: Yishai Adar
Main Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Amir Reza Ranjbaran, Nafiseh
Asgari is a filmmaker from Tehran, Iran. He has directed the short
films More Than Two Hours (2013), The Baby
(2014), and The Silence (2016). He has contributed a segment to
the anthology project In the Same Garden (16).
Disappearance (2017) is his début feature.
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