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Directed by Jafar Panahi

Iran 1995 85 mins. In Persian

Winner of the Camera D’Or and International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Panahi’s first foray into narrative filmmaking, based on a screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, Taste of Cherry) is a work entirely moored in childhood perspective. The child in question is Razieh (Aida Mohammadkhani) who sets off in advance of the Iranian New Year with her brother Ali (Mohsen Kafili) in search of a “chubby” goldfish at the open markets of Tehran. When the money for the fish is lost down a sewer grate, Razieh and Ali are left to their own devices to complete their quest and return home with the right fish with which to ring in the New Year. The White Balloon is the rare case where calling a movie an example of benign filmmaking is a compliment of the highest order. Panahi has forged a cinematic tale that works for viewers of all ages without dumbing down anything for the youngest members of his audience, one that offers a deceptive simplicity akin to Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin’s Little Fugitive, where the kids onscreen behave like children navigating aspects of their world for the first time, rather than actors performing their roles. “The White Balloon has an unadorned look, but its minor events are so carefully orchestrated that it has the feel of a child’s pop-up book, with interesting bits of business in every window or door frame or alley.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times. In Persian with English subtitles.