No place like home – Goodbye review (Sydney Film Festival)

Goodbye – Starring Leyla Zareh, Hassan Pourshirazi, and Behname Tashakor. Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof. By Simon Miraudo.

Goodbye played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

Though it has a reputation for being hidden behind a veil of strict Government control and religious fanaticism, Iran’s cinematic culture is growing with vigour, both in terms of quality and international recognition. This came to a head with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar going to the splendid A Separation at the 84th Academy Awards; the last in a long line of accolades bestowed upon Asghar Farhadi‘s picture. Abbas Kiarostami has begun to practice his craft around the world, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf‘s distinction as one of the nation’s finest filmmakers still stands despite him moving to Paris in 2005. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still restrictions on creative types; Makhmalbaf himself has had numerous pictures banned, while Jafar Panahi famously had to evacuate This is Not a Film out of the country via a USB stick hidden inside a cake.

Goodbye writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof, like Panahi, was sentenced to time in prison for producing “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic. Mercifully, Rasoulof served only a year-long suspended sentence, and has been allowed to continue making movies (unlike Panahi). Considering this, it’s hard not to see Goodbye as a direct challenge to his oppressors, and a defiantly personal project too.

Leyla Zareh stars as Noora, a young lawyer eager to leave Iran, where she has begun to feel like a foreigner. Her dissident journalist husband is in hiding from the police, and her licence to practice law has been revoked because of their affiliation. With a baby on the way, she can’t bear the thought of raising it in such stifling conditions (a parallel there with the character of Simin in A Separation). Noora desperately scrounges up all the money she can to make her escape; selling off belongings and bribing officials for a visa. In the movie’s most effective visual contrast, she and other hopefuls approach a hole in the wall where they hand over the passports for official approval. They cannot see who they’re talking to; who is deciding their freedom.

Goodbye has more in common with the recent new wave of Romanian cinema (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days; Tuesday, After Christmas) on account of its endlessly long-takes and unflinchingly still camerawork. It builds slowly – though satisfyingly – to an inevitable end, despite requiring much persistence on behalf of the viewer. Zareh impresses as the feature’s lone lead actor, but her seemingly inert and impassionate response to the numerous obstacles thrown in her path does not necessarily make the picture an easier experience. But Noora is not passive, and neither is Rasoulof. There is an undercurrent of rage in the character and the film. That it never bubbles to the surface only makes the portrayal of tyranny and repression in Iran even more chilling. Noora’s soul has been sapped.

3/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Goodbye played the Sydney Film Festival. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

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