Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Bright Day (Hossein Shahabi)

The Bright Day is a 2013 Iranian social drama directed by Hossein Shahabi.
It is his debut feature film which was very well received by Iranian film critics and audiences of the 31st Fajr Film Festival of Tehran in February 2013. The film also won the Special Jury Prize of 28th Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina and the Chicago Film Festival Awards for Best director & best Film.

It is a typical small story focused on two people, a Tehran kindergarten teacher named  Roshan (played by Pantea Bahram ) and  a driver of the taxi car (played by Mehran Ahmadi ) which she hires to take her around town one morning.  Thematically the film is quite surprising. The baffling question is why the school teacher takes the day off to travel around Tehran on that particular day?  Well, the father of one of her little students, a widower with a sick mother, is standing accused of murder.  He killed the son of his boss, whose family is relatively powerful. 

The film weaves a story that has its roots in the complexity of Iran’s draconian laws governing capital punishment. A kindergarten teacher hopes to aid the father of one of her young students, a man accused of manslaughter, by convincing each of seven reluctant witnesses to come forward. No one lacks a hidden agenda in this drama in which shades of truth collide with self-interest and the spectre of payback.

Well did the man accused of murder do it?  Not really.  There were plenty of witnesses to an argument between the accused and the deceased.  But at the end of it all, the boss' son fell down the stairs, hit is head on something sharp, and died as a result.

Now deceased pushed by the accused?  That's the question.  There were seven witnesses.  But the Boss, whose son died (or was killed) in a tragic way turns out to be from a rather powerful and wealthy family.  And he wants vengeance (the Death Penalty).  So Roshan, who knows the accused and his circumstances (that he has a little boy and a very sick elderly mother), is making the rounds to try to convince at least two of the seven witnesses to stand-up for the accused.  None of them appear to be convinced that the accused killed the man.  But many are not sure that he did not.  And in any case, all are afraid of the boss and his powerful family.

And perhaps inevitably as Roshan goes about Tehran trying to convince at least two of the witnesses to stand up for the accused so that he would not be executed leaving his five year old son an orphan and his elderly mother alone and on her own, a number of the potential witnesses pointedly ask, "Hey, why are you so interested in him?"   Then, what exactly were accused and the soon to be deceased Boss' son arguing about anyway?

This is a very small and yet very pointed movie.  The taxi-driver increasingly plays the role of the "Everyman" in the story.  What would you do if you had her in your car and you watched this sad story play out?  His passenger has little time to get two witnesses to the court to stand-up for the accused or else the accused will be sentenced to die.

And yes folks, this Iranian film about Iran, made in Iran and which premiered in Iran, swept the awards at Iran's premier (and government sanctioned...) film festival last year.  Something to perhaps consider, at least for a while, as one thinks of Iran today.

This 2013 Iranian feature uses a daunting and oppressive federal institution as the backdrop for a complex human drama. When a man is charged with murder, his child's schoolteacher (Pantea Bahram) spends an afternoon trying to convince each of the seven witnesses to come forward with information that might save him from execution. They're held back by self-interest, personal grudges, and outright fear of the judicial process, showing how an unregulated system turns common citizens against one another. The crime is never shown on screen, so one is plunged into the action and forced to decipher the information as it comes, which heightens the suspense in an otherwise talky and tedious story. 


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