Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Bright Day (orig. Rooz-e Roshan) 
The Bright Day (orig. Rooz-e Roshan)  [Cin] [SC]* (written and directed by Hossein Shahabi [Cin] [SC]*) is an independently made Iranian film that premiered in Feb 2013 at the 31st Annual Fajr Film Festival in Tehran where it won Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Actor and Best Actress. Subsequently, it has done well at various international film festivals and it played recently here in Chicago at the 24th Annual Festival of Films from Iran held at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
On one hand it is a typically "small story" focused on two people, a Tehran kindergarten teacher named Rashan (played by Pantea Bahram [Cin] [SC]*) and then a random taxi driver (played by Mehran Ahmadi [Cin] [SC]*) who she hires to take her around town one school morning. On the other hand, thematically the film is quite surprising / challenging: Why is school teacher taking the day off to ride around Tehran running errands on this particular day? Well, the father of one of her little students, a widower with a sick mother, is standing accused of murder. Who is he accused of murdering? The son of his boss, and his boss' family is relatively powerful. Well did he do it? Not really. There were plenty of (coworker) witnesses to an argument between the accused and the deceased. But at the end of it all, the boss' son fell down the stairs, hit is head on something sharp, and ... died as a result.
Now deceased pushed by the accused? That's the question. There were seven witnesses. But the Boss, whose son died (or was killed) in this tragic way turns out to be from a rather powerful (and wealthy family). And he wants vengeance (the Death Penalty). So Rashan, who knows the accused and his circumstances (that he has a little boy and a very sick elderly mother) is making the rounds to try to convince at least two of the seven witnesses to stand-up for the accused. None of them appear to be convinced that the accused killed the man. But many are not sure that he did not. And in any case, ALL are afraid of the Boss and his powerful family.
And perhaps inevitably as Rashan goes about Tehran trying to convince at least two of the witnesses to standup for the accused so that he would not be executed leaving his five year old son and orphan and his elderly mother alone and on her own, a number of the potential witnesses pointedly ask, "Hey, why are you so interested in him?" Then, what exactly were accused and the soon to be deceased Boss' son arguing about anyway?
This is a very small and yet very pointed movie. And the random taxi-driver increasingly plays the role of the "Everyman" in the story. What would you do if you had her in your car and you watched this sad story play out? His passenger has until 2 PM, maybe 3 PM, maybe (if the accused's lawyer really, really stalls ...) until 3:30 PM to get two witnesses to the court to stand-up for the accused or else the accused ... will be sentenced to die.
And yes folks, this Iranian film about Iran, made in Iran and which premiered in Iran, swept the awards at Iran's premier (and government sanctioned...) film festival last year. Something to perhaps consider, at least for a while, as one thinks of Iran today.
* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.
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