Jafar Panahi’s tender, delightful and warm-hearted debut film The White Balloon – it was, interestingly, written by Abbas Kiarostami, who Panahi had earlier assisted in the latter’s spellbinding Through the Olive Trees – had interesting parallels with Kiarostami’s stunning Where Is the Friend’s Home and Majid Majidi’s much loved Children of Heaven. The premise of all three, incidentally, chronicled disarming odysseys involving kid(s) searching for something; and, these were portrayed from the POVs of kids with infectious simplicity, empathy, mundane beauty, and an engaging sense of suspense. The movie began with a riot of colours and sounds, and a flurry of activities, as a vibrantly composed montage captured a busy Tehran bazaar which, intriguingly, provided snippets of characters – women and men, old and young, shoppers and passersby – who’d feature over the narrative’s course. The focus then zeroed in on Razieh (Aida Mohammadkhani), an adorable and pouting 7-year old girl who wants to purchase a “chubby” goldfish that has captured her fancy. It’s the Persian New Year eve, and hence her mom is short of cash, but she relents to give her the money thanks to some coaxing by the kid’s elder brother (Mohsen Kalifi). The rest of its brisk length – shot largely in “real time” – comprised of her dash through various obstacles, and thereafter – upon realizing that the money has inadvertently fallen through the grate in the pavement – desperate attempts at recovering it before the store closes. The two kids aside, Panahi filled the film – laced with wry observations and detached humour – with a host of characters, including a couple of hustling snake charmers, a sympathetic old lady, an irate tailor, a homesick soldier and a lonely Afghan balloon seller.
Director: Jafar Panahi
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama