One of the world’s great cinematic artists, Jafar Panahi has been carefully crafting self-reflexive works about artistic, personal and political freedom for the past three decades — despite his oppression at the hands of the Iranian government. The international film community vehemently denounced his summer 2022 arrest and imprisonment for his vocal support of a fellow artist’s independence — and he was only released on bail in early February 2023. Now, Panahi has gifted us all with a new virtuosic sleight-of-hand. In NO BEARS, as in many of his recent titles, Panahi plays a fictionalized version of himself, in this case relocated to a rural border town to remotely direct a new film in nearby Turkey — the story of which comes to sharply mirror disturbing events that begin to occur around him. As he struggles to complete his film, Panahi finds himself thrust in the middle of a local scandal, confronting the opposing pulls of tradition and progress, city and country, belief and evidence, and the universal desire to reject oppression.
“There’s palpable joy in the sheer ingenuity of the movie’s conception and in the realization of it. Panahi goes at his subjects with an irrepressible cinematic verve that extends from the story and the dialogue to the performances and the very presences of the actors.” —Richard Brody, New Yorker “A complex work of novelistic density, this is among the boldest and most accomplished statements from one of the world’s exemplary filmmakers….” —Jonathan Romney, ScreenDaily “It’s only a movie! That’s as true of NO BEARS as of anything else, but there may be no living filmmaker who has considered the practical and philosophical implications of the art form — the work of shooting and cutting; the pleasure and anxiety of watching — as rigorously or as insightfully as the Iranian director Jafar Panahi.” —A.O. Scott, Critic’s Pick, New York Times