THERE is a kind of genius among the best of Iranian cinema for psychological studies that eke complex, nuanced glimpses of what makes people tick.
Internationally acclaimed Castle of Dreams, the opening film of the Iranian Film Festival Australia, lives up to that national reputation.
It seems prosaic enough when Jalal (Hamed Behdad) meets his sister-in-law at her house, seemingly to pick up his ex-wife’s car and scoot.
He’s doing a side deal on the phone but it’s not clear what’s involved.
Whatever his scheming, his plans are thrown into disarray as his brother-in-law insists he take his young children Sara (Nioosha Alipour) and Ali (Youna Tadayyon), who they have been looking after while the children’s mother lingers on life support in hospital.
Thus begins a tentative, uncertain road experience, with Jalal giving every indication of wanting to abandon his long-neglected offspring, especially after picking up his girlfriend (Zhila Shahi), who is unaware of the sudden change of circumstance and unprepared for the series of revelations and upheavals they will experience within a short period.
The film is anchored by the flinty, unpredictable presence of Behdad as Jalal, but the interplay with the brilliant child actors here gives a necessary compassion and some level of hope as tensions escalate.
The international premiere of Symphony No.9 by Mohammadreza Honarmand marks the closing night film of the festival. The cross-genre fantasy/drama/comedy marks the return of Honarmand to the big screen after 17 years with this fantasy about love that arches over 2500 years of Iranian history.
Symphony No.9 releases in Iran simultaneously with its International Premiere at IFFA 2019.
Tehran: City of Love arrives direct from the BFI London Film Festival to make its Australian premiere.
The latest work from emerging director Ali Jaberansari follows an ex-bodybuilding champ who develops feelings for the young man he’s training; a shy office clerk who invents a new persona for herself; and a singer who turns to weddings in the hope of finding love.
Tehran: City of Love is a delicate examination of disenfranchisement, desperation and sexuality.
Further titles include the international premiere of Ebrahim Ebrahimian’s Zero Floor and the Australian premiere of Mohsen Tanabandeh’s The Oath following its international premiere at Tokyo Film Festival.
Castle of Dreams (CTC)
Directed by: Reza Mirkarimi
Starring: Hamed Behdad, Nioosha Alipour, Youna Tadayyon, Zhila Shahi
Reviewed by: Martin Turner
In cinemas: November 14, opening film of Iranian Film Festival Australia, 10 films from November 14-20