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3 Faces

Jafar Panahi

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In the hands of veteran Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, the search for a missing girl turns into a moving meditation about the nation’s patriarchal attitudes. Deceptively simple, the film moves from low-key mystery to a casual survey of how women – especially actresses – have been demonised by their countrymen. The fact that Panahi is currently subject to a 20-year travel ban only intensifies the gentle poignancy of 3 Faces: the empathy he feels for these subjugated women is palpable as well as personal.

"The search for a missing girl turns into a moving meditation about the nation’s patriarchal attitudes..."

The film begins with a troubling video of impassioned teenager Marziyeh (MarziyehRezaei), who describes how her ambition to become an actor has been thwarted by her family. The footage ends abruptly, with the defeated Marziyeh appearing to commit suicide. Shaken by the recording, actressBehnaz Jafari (playing a fictionalised version of herself) abandons a film shoot and, with her friend Panahi (playing himself), sets off to Marziyeh's village in the hope of finding her alive.

Filming in the villages where his parents and grandparents grew up, Panahi displays some affection for the uneducated locals encountered by our main characters; there is plenty of religious superstition and suspicion toward aspiring artists such as Marziyeh. 3 Faces is never condescending to the villagers, but Panahi slowly reveals how such a repressive atmosphere can make life unbearable for those who long for more.

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