Pahah Panahi — who is the son of Iranian master Jafar Panahi — has not had much trouble coming to the Cannes Film Festival from Iran, unlike his father, who is banned from travel.
“Traveling was not problematic; I travelled to Paris to quarantine for seven days before going on to Cannes,” he said.
To speed things up, Pahah’s visa was organized with the help of an invitation from the Director’s Fortnight, where his first feature, “Hit the Road,” about a chaotic Iranian family on a road trip across a rugged landscape, is world-premiering on Saturday.
Of course his father, whose film “Three Faces” won the best screenplay award at Cannes in 2018, is not just banned from leaving his home country. He’s also banned from filmmaking, after being tried and found guilty of “propaganda against the state,” though he surreptitiously makes films anyway. And Pahah has served as an assistant on most of his father’s recent works.
Jafar also indirectly had a hand in his son’s debut. “I wrote the script on my own and had my father read it once I felt it worked,” he said. And, though “Hit the Road is “the opposite of Jafar’s cinema, he immediately got on board and gave me great advice,” Pahah added. In fact, his father’s help was crucial, “especially in the post-production phase.”
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“Hit the Road,” which was filmed in remote areas of Iran with a regular permit, portrays Iranian society that is not at ease with the country’s hard-line government, including scenes depicting the fear of being under police surveillance, stemming from the director’s real life, but also from that of the country at large.
“The more I think about it, the more I realize that we have always lived with this feeling that we are being watched. That someone is listening in on us,” he said. “This is how it’s been for my family, but I’m sure it’s the same for the families of a lot of artists and intellectuals, on whom the regime exerts constant pressure.”
“Hit the Road” also features songs that are unlikely to sit well with Iranian censors.
“These songs are hits that we all grew up with in Iran that date from before the revolution,” said the helmer. “The regime does not tolerate them and frowns upon their use: They were sung by artists who had to flee abroad after the revolution.”
That’s among reasons why, though he hasn’t had problems shooting the film in his country and taking it to Cannes, Pahah doesn’t think there is a chance he will be able to release “Hit the Road” in Iran. In that respect his predicament is just like his father.
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