Bandar Band (2020)

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This simple and joyful film, ostensibly about a young band trying to navigate flood waters to get to Tehran for an audition, hides a deeper meaning about the challenges for young Iranians.


Navid (Reza Koolaghani) and couple Amir (Amir Hossein Taheri) and Mahla (Mahdieh Mousavi) are in a van, driving through flooded roads with a deadline to get to Tehran by 6pm for a chance of stardom. Amir is the driver, adamant that he knows all the back roads and can get them there. Mahla is heavily pregnant and oscillates between motherly responsibility and giddy, uncertainty at her abilities as a singer. Navid is a force of energy, keeping them all excited about the bright future that awaits them.

They face roads closed by flood waters, bridges that have disappeared, mudslides that have destroyed villages and camps of dispossessed families who have lost everything. With every impediment they face, they turn around and seek another way, reassuring the audition organiser that they will get there on time. Their spirits rarely seem to flag and they find time to play in the water, help ferry children to refugee camps and take a detour to collect clothes and a guitar.

There is a lot of warmth and heart in the story. It takes its time but we don’t mind being on a road trip through rural Iran. It is often bleak and bleached of colour but around every corner is a different interaction, a different group of people wanting to help, or sometimes hinder. Mahla and Navid are particularly engaging – you can imagine him being a bit of a handful but he is the creative spark that lights up the world with colour.

And this is where the metaphorical element of the story starts to become clear. They travel through a seemingly endless day, the sun always high in the sky, across what seems to be hundreds of kilometres. They don’t stop for food or fuel and after a while, the obstacles begin to repeat; another downed bridge, flooded roads that look just like those at the start. They are caught in an endless journey, perpetually hopeful and lost in a dream of a future. The ending is delicately poetic.

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

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