Hit the road”, sunshine and dark clouds from Iran

Hit the Road, the fea­ture debut from Panah Panahi, has been described as Iran’s answer to Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine. But this being mod­ern-day Iran, its sur­face whim­sy masks sin­is­ter under­cur­rents and gen­uine danger.

A young man is dri­ving his par­ents and his caf­feinat­ed 7 year old broth­er, some­where. And the film’s easy charm, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its first half, is gen­er­at­ed by the things the lat­ter says and does because he’s only sev­en and doesn’t know any better.

But as the film and their jour­ney progress, we realise that, con­trary to appear­ances, they’re trav­el­ling with a very spe­cif­ic des­ti­na­tion in mind; a seclud­ed and out of the way bor­der crossing. 

Panahi is, as some of you will have sur­mised, the son of Jafar Panahi, who direct­ed the infec­tious­ly charm­ing and gen­uine­ly mov­ing Off­side, from 2006, about a pair a teenage girls deter­mined to go a world cup qual­i­fy­ing match. In 2010, he was sen­tenced to 6 years in prison and banned from mak­ing films for 20 years.

But a year lat­er, in 2011, he defi­ant­ly “made” This is not a Film, which was smug­gled out and shown inter­na­tion­al­ly (reviewed by me ear­li­er here). And ever since which, he’s remained there under house arrest and under con­stant threat of being sent to prison. 

Remark­ably, as it’s con­sid­er­ably eas­i­er said than done, his son here strikes up exact­ly the same deft bal­ance of pro­duc­ing a fly-on-the-wall win­dow on to inti­mate, domes­tic ten­sions, togeth­er with the sub­tle, unspo­ken cri­tique of a regime that forces ordi­nary peo­ple to act in ways they would nev­er nor­mal­ly have dreamt of.

All the per­for­mances are out­stand­ing, and there’s just the right mea­sure of direc­to­r­i­al flour­ish­es to lift the film for­mal­ly, with­out allow­ing it to descend into wan­ton quirkiness. 

Hit the Road is yet anoth­er rea­son to cel­e­brate one of the most vibrant film mak­ing cul­tures in the world. And for lament­ing a regime that insists on for­ev­er pun­ish­ing its peo­ple for their defi­ant and stead­fast refusal to stay silent.

You can see the trail­er for Hit the Road here.

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