Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ND/NF ’18: Gaze (short)

“Don’t get involved” is the cynical mantra of western urbanites. Apparently, it also applies in Tehran, with full force. A woman is in for a long but intense dark night of the soul in Farnoosh Samadi’s short film, Gaze (trailer here), which screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films.

A working-class woman has just completed her menial night shift job. She wearily boards the bus, knowing she is on nights for the rest of the week and the following week too. After calling the sitter who is anxious to leave, she sees a crime being committed. The young punk in question also knows that she sees.

It is tricky to produce genre films in Iran due to all the moralistic regulations. However, Gaze probably comes the closest to being an Iranian riff on the domestic thriller, in the tradition of Wait Until Dark and Sleeping with the Enemy. In a mere fifteen minutes, Samadi stages a real white-knuckle cat-and-mouse game. Yet, aside from the suspense, there is a viscerally dramatic depiction of a single woman’s vulnerability in Iranian society (despite her being beyond reproach, morally and ethically).

Gaze represents some remarkably accomplished filmmaking. Just as importantly, it is driven by a completely natural but powerfully moving performance by Pedram Ansari as the distressed woman. It is a tight, tense, scrupulously realistic film, but it also has a haunting quality that lingers with viewers. Very highly recommended, Gaze screens during New Directors/New Films this Friday (3/30) at the Walter Reade and Sunday (4/1) at MoMA, as part of Short Program 1.