Thursday, March 28, 2019

Movie with Abe: 3 Faces

3 Faces
Directed by Jafar Panahi
Released March 29, 2019

People want to achieve career goals for a variety of different reasons. Some are driven by ambition and want to succeed beyond the wildest dreams of their humble origins, while others have a specific calling to a field to which they know they can contribute much. Depending on where someone grows up, the expectations of what they can accomplish can be dictated by religion and culture, often leading to a yearning for more and a desperate attempt to escape from the confines of a repressive identity from which they can only imagine ever actually leaving.

This film opens with popular Iranian actress Behnaz Jafari watching a video of a young girl named Marziyeh, who professes that she has tried to contact her and, as a result of her failure to help her get out of her small village to attend a drama conservatory, she will kill herself on camera. Disturbed by what appears to be her suicide but dubious about how the video was then sent to her, Jafari travels with filmmaker Jafar Panahi to find any trace of this young girl and determine whether she is in fact dead, encountering adoring fans from within insular traditional communities.

Panahi is a filmmaker well known for being banned from making films in Iran, and his last high-profile release in the United States was famously smuggled out of his home country on a flash drive hidden within a cake to premiere at Cannes. Unlike “This Is Not a Film,” this production has a clear narrative, one that sits with its protagonist as she grapples with the horror of having potentially contributed to someone’s suffering and death as a result of her inaction. There is clearly much that Panahi has to say about a society that dampens creative energies and dictates futures based on heritage and gender, and this film presents an honest investigation that doesn’t seek to dramatize or exaggerate any moment or interaction.

Jafari playing herself gives this film a decided authenticity, and it doesn’t feel as if these actors are indeed acting. Instead, this feels like a story that could easily play out in reality, with Panahi in particular blending into the background, driving Jafari and translating for her but not attempting to steal the spotlight, even in a place dominated by men as superiors. Its slow, contemplative nature doesn’t make for an overly engaging experience, but it is hard to look away from this quietly riveting meditation.


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