Thursday, 7 June 2018

Sydney Film Festival (4) - NO DATE, NO SIGNATURE (Vahid Jalilvand, Iran, 2017)

“The Iranians have never made a bad movie”. That’s the mantra of a friend who utters it every time he sees an Iranian film. 

I remember one year doing pre-selection for the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards and some bright spark at some Iranian institute for the promotion of independent cinema (there is apparently such a thing) had sent a parcel of 27 films for consideration. Only a couple of them got to go to the big dance of APSA Jury consideration but the other 25 should have felt slighted. God they were good, remarkable in fact and I would defy you to send 27 Australian films from any one year and have them taken very seriously by a panel looking for quality…

But, pardon the nostalgia, I digress….

Vahid Jalilvand
Vahid Jalilvand has made one previous feature Wednesday, May 9 which I think I must have seen during some APSA selection process. I’ve seen it somewhere but there’s no record of it at the SFF and none on the APSA website so I guess it didn’t make the incredibly high standards of both organisations. Never mind. 

Jalilvand’s new film No Date, No Signature(Iran, 2017) is one of those remorselessly dour dramas that the Iranians make which peel away the system of justice. There are any number of them and they go into things like honour killings and blood money with the sort of attention to detail that makes you squirm. Everything that happens is logical and justifiable. Everything that happens is an outrage. 

And the drama is presented in the context of a society where the women always wear headscarfs or more covering and are generally totally subservient to male partners or colleagues.

Navid Mohammadzadeh, No Date, No Signature
Here we get something different. A coroner is consumed by guilt and feels the need to be honest when all about him are telling him not to worry. Remorseless, dour. The words come back. But fascinating as he disrupts the process of dealing with the death of a child whom in his own heart he believes he killed. Once again the system involving investigation, assigning guilt, punishing the downtrodden and silencing women is put on full display. 

The performance of  Navid Mohammadzadeh as the put upon father who loses a son and is then subjected to the full force of the law won a prize at Venice last year. Jalilvand won a Best Director prize as well. Utterly merited.

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