In 2010, Jafar Panahi was arrested on the charge of making propaganda against Iran and was sentenced to not make any films for twenty years. To a filmmaker, that is akin to having one’s tongue cut off. Panahi, however, did not take that sentence into consideration; the last nine years seeing four new releases from him, making it the most prolific chapter of his career. This new act of revolutionary filmmaking has created some of the freshest works of the cinematic world, the most recent of which is 3 Faces.
In his latest work, the three faces stand for three generations of women in Iranian cinema: the pre-revolution actor whose career was ended by Islamism, the current actor who must walk a fine line and the future actor whose understanding of cinema, from any direction in relation to the camera, ensures that she will do anything to make it.
The film begins with a lengthy sequence shot on a smartphone camera. A young desperate woman pleads for help before putting a noose around her neck and jumping. This video is sent to Panahi, once again playing himself, and established actor Behnaz Jafari, who makes it her mission to find out what happened to this girl, while also having her own doubts about the veracity of the event. And thus begins a very simple film, hiding many complex questions: about whether the cinema is truth or lies, about the place of women in the world and about life, the universe and everything. Panahi may not give the audience the answers, but he definitely provides a template to ensure that the conversation goes on after the film ends.
For anyone who has been following the works of Panahi, this will not disappoint. For the newbies, it may take a moment to warm up to, but you will eventually find yourself as engrossed in the events on the screen as the rest of the audience. 3 Faces is the sort of necessary film that does not come around all that often.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam