Hit the Road***
by Panah Panahi
Iranian film, 1 h 33
A family hit the road. Where is she going and what is she fleeing from? Why has she banned cell phones, mortgaged her house, and fears being followed? To all these questions, the film will gradually provide answers. But as often with the “road-movie”, the journey is more important than the goal. And if we easily guess the reasons for which these Iranians go to the northwestern end of the country, near the Turkish border, what interests the director happens in the car.
→ MAINTENANCE. Panah Panahi: “With “Hit the Road”, I proved to myself that I could have a first name”
Inside the cockpit, there is the father with his leg in plaster and his wry humor; the worried mother, constantly oscillating between laughter and tears; the eldest son whose silence exudes anguish and sadness; and finally this lively and mischievous little brother who dreams of superheroes and, unaware of the events to come, is responsible for bringing joy and casualness to the trip. Not to mention the dog, old and sick, each of whom anxiously awaits his last breath.
A whole loving and warm tribe who sing loudly the pop hits of before the revolution and bicker with tenderness. The film takes us on this crossing of the country as funny, comical – even sometimes burlesque – as it is tender and infinitely heartbreaking. Locked up with them in the confined space of the vehicle which contrasts with the immensity of the landscapes crossed, we go through one by one the stages that lead them to an inevitable separation and an uncertain future.
A journey with autobiographical accents
Son of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (three faces, Taxi Tehran), Panah Panahi, whose first film this is, signs a subtle and tender tragicomedy, a little gem full of charm and poetry. His family and sentimental road-trip is the perfect summary of the constraints and impasses that the regime of his country imposes on society as a whole. With the only prospects of exile or impotence. But this journey with autobiographical overtones is also, by the director’s own admission, a metaphor for his own disillusionment and his quest for identity as an artist.
→ CRITICAL. With “Taxi Tehran”, Jafar Panahi goes through a red light
Panah Panahi waited until she was 38 to start directing after having been her father’s operator and assistant. The difficulties of working in Iran (Jafar Panahi has been banned from filming and leaving the country since 2010), but also the need to emancipate himself from the shadow of this world-famous filmmaker, have long discouraged. Before a “Leap of Confidence” does not push him to realize his dream.
Good pick. With an authorization to shoot on video, which is easier to obtain and less controlled, a modest budget and the road as his only setting, he demonstrates a creativity and an imagination capable of enchanting the spectators.
A cinema that is both intimate and modest
Like this scene, where father and son fly away under the starry sky in a tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001, a space odyssey. Or the dozens of car headlights that pierce the darkness of the mountain as the families gathered there await the arrival of the smugglers. “In my country, from childhood, we are used to having a sense of resourcefulness, to go through the window when the door is closed to us. We are at a good school to do with the means at hand and never let ourselves be discouraged”, he explains.
With a strong sense of the frame, a cinema that is both intimate and modest that plays with contrasts and emotions, Panah Panahi imposes its own style. And, nourished by an international cinephilia, takes over the generational relay of the filmmakers of his country, who, for decades, have refused to abdicate their freedom of expression, making their art an act of faith and resistance.
“A quest for one’s own identity” – Panah Panahi, Iranian director
“There is a surface motif in this story, exile, which is very present and recurrent in Iranian society, as in my own life. Regardless of background or opinions, many Iranians only see this solution, and that is what is striking. Unless you are part of this regime, everyone is in this state of dereliction where there is no prospect but flight. But there is also a second reading of the film, more metaphorical, which is that of detachment from the family, of this quest for one’s own identity that one has when one is young and about to steal from its own wings. Before having a very clear vision of its future, it is necessary to cross an unknown, difficult zone. It is this journey that interested me and that I describe in the film. »