The Mirror

Screening on Film
Directed by Jafar Panahi.
With Mina Mohammad Khani, Aida Mohammadkhani, Kazem Mojdehi.
Iran, 1997, 35mm, color, 95 min.
Persian with English subtitles.

What seems to be yet another Iranian film about a child dramatically changes course midway to become a startlingly self-reflexive work. The film begins simply enough, following a young girl as she leaves school one afternoon. Not finding her mother waiting for her, she tries to make her own way home. As it becomes less and less clear whether we are watching a documentary or a scripted film, we are constantly forced to reinterpret what we have seen. Iranian directors from Kamran Shirdel to Samira Makhmalbaf have brilliantly blurred the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. In Panahi’s hands, this ambiguity becomes a reflection on power relations, most directly between filmmaker and subject, but also between adults and children and, by extension, governments and citizens.

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