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96 minutes · 2012
This moody drama is Bahman Ghobadi's first feature since state authorities drove him from Iran in 2009, and it's notably drained of the spontaneous energy that enlivened his earlier films. A poet struggles to reenter society after being incarcerated for nearly 30 years under the Islamic Republic, during which time his wife and children have been led to believe he's dead (Ghobadi says he based the story on the experience of a family friend). The family has relocated to Istanbul, and though he goes there to find them, he can't bring himself to make contact. Ghobadi illustrates the character's inner torment through a fragmented narrative that jumps between present experience, memory, and hallucination; he also includes images of physical abuse that would be impossible in an Iranian production. This is deeply felt, poetic filmmaking, though the unrelentingly dour tone isn't for everyone. In Farsi with subtitles.

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