Iranian movie Critical Zone wins big at the 76th Locarno International Film Festival

The title was shot in Tehran using hidden cameras to circumvent restrictions

Sina Ataeian Dena, producer of Mantagheye bohrani (Critical Zone), accepts the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival on behalf of director Ali Ahmadzadeh. EPA
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The film Mantagheye bohrani (Critical Zone) has won the Pardo d'oro, or Golden Leopard, at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland.

Directed by Iranian filmmaker Ali Ahmadzadeh, the movie was shot furtively in Tehran without approval from the Iranian government. Ahmadzadeh, whose films are banned in his home country, used hidden cameras to circumvent restrictions.

The film tells the story of a man who drives through the Iranian capital with his dog selling drugs and meeting several marginalised people. Organisers of Locarno said the film was a “hymn to freedom and resistance in Iran”.

Making the film, Ahmadzadeh said was an “act of rebellion”.

“The fact that people are seeing it is an even greater victory for us,” he told online publication Cineuropa.

After the films for the main competition were revealed on July 5, Ahmadzadeh was summoned by Iran’s Ministry of Security, who pressured him to withdraw Mantagheye bohrani. He was then banned from leaving Iran, meaning he could not attend the festival in Europe.

According to Deadline, the film’s international distributor Luxbox Paris, and Sina Ataeian Dena, a producer on the title, received threats urging for the film to be pulled from the festival.

“Ali is under constant psychological torture, and we believe that making all these public might create a bit of protection for him,” Dena said in a statement last month.

“According to what we predicted and agreed on a long time ago we will anyway premiere the film. Standing all kinds of threats and ... accusations became a part of our job, and showing the film is the most important part of our fight.”

Mantagheye bohrani is Ahmadzadeh’s fourth feature.

His others are Phenomenon (1996), Kami’s Party (2013) and Atomic Heart Mother (2015), which was nominated for the top awards at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival of Independent Cinema, the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Odesa International Film Festival.

Updated: August 13, 2023, 11:33 AM