38th Fajr National Film Festival, was the opportunity to premier most of the movies made in the year leading to February 2020. among them, movies that satisfied expectations were fewer than last year, and even the best of them don't qualify as an excellent movie with impactful opening and ending, suspenseful narrative, and believable characters. In the end, five of them had a superior technical value.
As a professional documentary-maker, Mohammad Kart has made fantastic documentaries, and with Abdolreza Kahani by his side as an assistant, he has ventured into feature-length filmmaking. Not afraid of countless takes for each shot, some of the sequences he directs can be taught in film-schools making cooperating with him in a project a good opportunity for a Film school graduate. After making documentaries and short films, Kart made his much-praised first feature-length film, Butterfly Stroke.
The movie is about a clip going viral in which a woman named Parvaneh (Tannaz Tabatabaei) is swimming in a women's pool. Her husband (Amir Aghaei), who is a thug from the slums of Tehran, first goes to the swimming pool, and with the help of his lackeys, trashes there. And later, he kills his wife at first sight by a steering wheel lock. The story follows his brother (Javad Ezzati) while he searches the roots of the incident and salving the problem, he discovers shocking facts which makes him part of this incident.
Butterfly Strokes carries the life experiences of his new generation director, who has first-hand experience of living in the same environment as this kind of thugs. This fact has increased the impact of this movie on the middle-class audience. Amir Aghaei's performance as a thug leader is so natural that people who know these kinds of thugs but don't know him may mistake him for a real one. Action scenes are quite good, but dramatic relationships are not up to expectations. Yet still, Butterfly Strokes is one of the most important moves of Iranian cinema in 2020.
The story is about the titular protagonist, a middle-aged man, who after experiencing a defeat in his love life, quits university and goes back to his hometown in Khoy County. He takes care of his sister's son Aydin who has lost his mother to self-immolation. Aydin is an adolescent boy who resists his uncle's way of upbringing. Meanwhile, Atabay who is making a villa for his employer falls in love with his daughter. but things don't go the way he wants.
Hadi Hejazifar, not only as a screenwriter but with his impressive performance as the lead actor, has played a big role (no pun intended) in Niki Karimi's success in her latest attempt at directing. Aside from Hejazifar, Javad Ezzati has given an impressive performance as Yahya, Atabay's friend, the chemistry between the two has impressed the audience in numerous sequences.
Parts of the move are in Azari, which makes it difficult to understand without subtitles for the majority of viewers in Iran who speak Farsi. Normally these kinds of movies don't perform well at the box office since the audience needs to divert their attention from the screen to read subtitles, but from a technical point of view, this move can be considered the best Iranian movie in the Azari language in recent years.
Saeid Malekan was one of the best make-up artist of Iranian cinema for so many years. Gradually he rose through the ranks and became a producer, and eventually directed Day Zero. The move is a thriller about an Iranian intelligence agency operation for the capture and arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the Jundallah terrorist organization. Before this one, "When the Moon Was Full" directed by Narges Abyar, depicted Rigi and his brother's life, and it seems that this movie somehow completes When the Moon Was Full. The story is about an Intelligence officer (Amir Jadidi), who after various attempts on capturing or killing Rigi, eventually succeeds. Jadidi is among selective few actors who were able to perform an intelligence officer role successfully.
His success is partly due to his body shape and facial features. His performance was a critical element for the movie's success, had he failed his part this movie would have turned out to be a parody. Day Zero has a better structure than most thrillers made in Iranian cinema. Action scenes are choreographed, and it's obvious that considerable time and energy have been spent to take the sequences, but the final result is not comparable to world-class thriller standards. There is not much chance for the movie in international markets, but it can draw at least part of the Iranian audience to the cinemas.
Despite all that, Malekan's first choice for directing was a bold one. Because while most of the Iranian Filmmakers prefer the more cautious choice of making a drama as their first movie, for its relatively easier to make shooting script and character development, he has chosen a genre with a difficult production. Of course, this in itself can make the international audience who knows Iranian cinema for its impactful dramas curious.
Toman is the Iranian currency and a symbol of value, so technically when it comes to gambling bets are made using Toman. Gambling fever in various parts of Iran especially north of Iran is hot, and some people bet a big part of their fortune in hopes of getting rich fast and easy which in most cases only leads to their loss. But Toman is the story of a winner. A winner which leads a strange life and his luck so good that each bet won only sets the stage for another win. and so, he takes more risks to rise his social class faster.
Morteza Farshbaf, director of Toman, has used lesser-known actors in his move, so the audience is not influenced by their previous roles. Farshbaf who has numerous dramas under his belt has made his most difficult movie yet in terms of narrative structure. Part of its difficulty is due to cinematography which is done by Morteza Najafi. The movie is an episodic narrative in four parts, spring, summer, fall, and winter and tells the story of Davood, the protagonist of the movie, who after many turns and twists, doesn't look like a winner at the end!
Although Toman has a faster pace relative to other Iranian movies, and the story’s length relative to movie length is logical. but after the middle third, since the conflict is not engaging enough the movie gradually becomes boring. but you can't deny the fact that Toman has an original subject and uses an unconventional shooting script for Iranian cinema. editing is also notable and using elements that show how raising the stakes of bets changes characters' behaviors has made up for aesthetically beautiful shots for the audience.
Ark Brothers, Bahman Ark, and Bahram Ark are two young filmmakers who have made a bold movie this year. The movie Skin has a fantasy story and is about the relationship between jinns and humans. The only way for a young man to reach his love is through the death of his mother, and he faces a dilemma. This movie is in the Azari language and is filmed in the rural district of Bavil in Osku County. and has made good use of native symbols for creating atmosphere and so narrates a story that even to the Iranian audience is original and interesting.
The pacing is good and has a clear rising and falling action. the shooting script is meticulously calculated, and a story which has the potential to go very wrong, in the hands of Ark brothers has turned into a good movie. Skin is a very good showcase for the Ark brothers' expertise in filmmaking, but as they have stated, this movie which is based on a folk tale is heavily influenced by the environment in which they have grown up in. we can only wait and see if their second attempt at filmmaking can make the same impact or not.
*Mr. Khorramdel is Director of Multimedia Office & Culture Editor in TABNAK.com he is a Filmmaker and independent film critic.