No Hard Feelings (Wir) (2020)

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It’s good to start a film festival on a high and this sweet, sexy, lyrical and hopeful first feature by Faraz Shariat hit just the right note.

Parvis (Benny Radjaipour) was born in Germany to hard-working Iranian parents who just want him to be able to blend in to their adopted culture. No matter how good his German, he is regularly reminded by the white guys he hooks up with that he is different. After being caught shoplifting, he serves out community service at a refuge centre for asylum seekers. Even there, he is on the outer. His Farsi isn’t good enough, his hair is the wrong colour and he doesn’t chase girls enough to be a good Iranian boy.

He meets brother and sister Amon (Eidin Jalali) and Banafshe (Banafshe Hourmazdi) and a tentative friendship forms. They party, roam the night time city and talk about what it’s like to be children of immigrants in a country that doesn’t seem to want them.

I was expecting this to be an often-told story of culture clash within a family; the gay son disappointing conservative parents. What unfolds is a surprisingly beautiful and quirky meditation on identity and the uncertainties that come with being on the cusp of adulthood. Yes Parvis is gay in a world that feels unsafe but his, and Amon’s, dilemma is in knowing who they are and where they fit. That they find some solace in each other is understandable, although it is no safe haven. And as compelling as the two leads are, it is Banafshe’s story that provides the context for what unfolds.

This film is beautifully paced, like a river that slowly bubbles along, turning suddenly, reflecting the light, dipping beneath the surface and then out again into the sun. There are moments of colour and music, tableau where we see the three friends against empty landscapes, speeches spoken loud and in intimate whispers. The narrative thread is clear but we are also carried by a mood. We know this is just a fragment of life, of the lives of these people but we also feel how a moment can be shattering.

For a first feature, this is remarkable and I can’t wait to see what else Shariat does.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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