Times are tough for the characters in “Tales,” a Venice Film Festival entry from Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. Jobs are scarce, prices are high and drug addiction claims too many young people.
One of 20 films competing for the festival’s Golden Lion prize, “Tales” is a series of fictional vignettes set among struggling residents of Tehran – indebted cabbies, impoverished pensioners, unemployed factory workers.
The movie never makes the cause of their woes explicit, but the director says she wanted to show the harm that Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program were doing to ordinary people.
“The economic situation in Iran is critical, and this is due to the embargo, which actually penalized the people in the country,” Bani-Etemad said Thursday at a news conference for the film.
“Children who suffer from very severe diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis are suffering from the consequences of the embargo. “I would really like to see these embargoes lifted. Someone has to give an answer to the Iranian people.”
Bani-Etemad is one of Iran’s leading female directors, and “Tales” has a strong focus on women, with characters – many reappearing from her earlier films – ranging from pensioners to prostitutes, doctors and staff at a women’s shelter.
Filmmakers in the Islamic Republic regularly face restrictions, and sometimes prison, and some have resorted to shooting films clandestinely.
“Tales” was shot quickly in the streets, homes and cars of Tehran, but the director said “that is not to say it was made underground. This is a film that experienced normal production difficulties.”
“But the joy of having made the film exceeds the difficulties,” she added.
And despite its warts-and-all view of social problems, it is due for release in Iran in the fall.
The director said that, as with all her movies, “if I am not sure my movie will be screened at home I will not have it screen in any festival.”