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Bé Omid é Didar (Good Bye) | Review

Banned Iranian Filmmaker Rasoulof Resists the Law, and Narrative Conventions, in his Feminist Allegory

As the lesser known of the duo of law-shunning Iranian filmmakers who surprised the cinephile world by bringing films to Cannes this year, Mohammad Rasoulof’s latest, and his first since his biggest success The White Meadows, was also the more hushed and controlled of the two (the other coming from relative superstar Jafar Panahi). Featuring the cryptic title Good Bye, the film’s premise and tone was all but inappropriate given its maker’s banishment from making movies. Within the old adage that artists should only work from what they know and experience, this tale of a pregnant woman trying perilously to obtain a visa so that she can leave Iran requires little reading between the lines to see what it’s getting at.

Showing the entire exhaustive process, Rasoulof sets his film to the dreary and malevolent rhythms of an event that he went through himself in an attempt at visa acquisition in the Winter of 2010. So as not to make an exact mirror of his travails, he’s cast Leyla Zareh in the role of a pregnant lawyer so as to sustain a comparable sense of urgency to what he experienced – it presents an invisible time bomb that makes every hiccup in the operation nearly apocalyptic. Small moments, such as the removal of nail polish, or a pet turtle that sits in its tray, eating day-in and day-out, clawing and sliding on the shallow walls, unable to escape it’s austere domain, or the standing and endless waiting at reception windows, all evoke a fatalist air that floods every scene as hope escapes not just for Leyla, but for the entire country’s ability to be redeemed from its overbearing and restrictive systems.

Icy blues and greys stagnate the spaces into a purgatorial vacancy of life, much less empathy. Precisely frames shots are held rigorously, uncompromisingly imprisoning our protagonist within our gaze, as she is to Iranian officials. If it all seems a bit too heavy-handed, it only underlines how passionately Rasoulof needs his situation to be heard, seen, and felt by outside ears, eyes, and hearts. Despite the tenacious details of his script, this is no time for understatement or subtlety. Sometimes pacing issues drown out the tension that we know is embedded in the product, but it’s a work that should not follow our ideas of what movie dramas should be, and how they should make us feel. It’s an imperfect labour of desperation, and its flaws only make its realities linger all-the-more abrasively.

Reviewed May 15th at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard section.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Blake Williams is an avant-garde filmmaker born in Houston, currently living and working in Toronto. He recently entered the PhD program at University of Toronto's Cinema Studies Institute, and has screened his video work at TIFF (2011 & '12), Tribeca (2013), Images Festival (2012), Jihlava (2012), and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Blake has contributed to's coverage for film festivals such as Cannes, TIFF, and Hot Docs. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Talk to Her), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardennes (Rosetta), Haneke (Code Unknown), Hsiao-Hsien (Flight of the Red Balloon), Kar-wai (Happy Together), Kiarostami (Where is the Friend's Home?), Lynch (INLAND EMPIRE), Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Van Sant (Last Days), Von Trier (The Idiots)

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