Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Where is Jafar Panahi's "The White Balloon"?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik July 24, 2012 at 8:13PM

A classic of the Iranian New Wave, and in its day, the most successful and acclaimed Iranian film to be released in the U.S. ever, Jafar Panahi's masterpiece "The White Balloon" looks to be AWOL from American screens, big and small. Maybe someone out there knows the status of U.S. home video distribution rights for this important film, but according to my research, "The White Balloon" appears to have vanished into the ether, available for purchase only on obscure Iranian movie websites and in Spanish PAL versions.
3

A classic of the Iranian New Wave, and in its day, the most successful and acclaimed Iranian film to be released in the U.S. ever, Jafar Panahi's masterpiece "The White Balloon" looks to be AWOL from American screens, big and small. Maybe someone out there knows the status of U.S. home video distribution rights for this important film, but according to my research, "The White Balloon" appears to have vanished into the ether, available for purchase only on obscure Iranian movie websites and in Spanish PAL versions.

white balloon

Released by Jeff Lipsky and Bingham Ray's October Films in 1995, "The White Balloon" was hailed by critics for its simplicity of storytelling and delicate touch. Few saw it for its supremely subtle and artfully crafted political perspective--a precursor to Panahi's equally excellent and more overt social commentaries (i.e. "The Circle," "Crimson Gold" and "Offside"). It was Jonathan Rosenbaum, in a lengthy review in the Chicago Reader, who saw past the film's more obvious neorealist aesthetic, discovering something far more complex:

"Critics who describe this movie as fluff or as conventional realism — and a surprising number do, even some of the film’s more enthusiastic partisans — have to ignore a good deal of what happens to arrive at such conclusions," he wrote.

"They have to overlook such peculiarities as the sound editing, which periodically foregrounds the radio reports about how much time remains before the New Year — reports that, unless I missed something, are never accompanied by any visible radio. They have to repress Panahi’s formal decision to shoot all the action in the streets and alleys of a small patch of Tehran, apart from the airy interiors of a couple of shops.... and some of the strange consequences of that decision: for instance, we never see Razieh and Ali’s father, even though we hear him. These critics also have to overlook the highly unconventional swerve in the film’s narrative trajectory that ultimately leaves us not with Razieh or Ali, who run off to join their parents, but with an Afghan balloon seller (Aliasghar Samadi), who becomes an important character only in the film’s final act."

The film is a strong example of post-revolutionary Iranian cinema and for students of Iranian film and the work of Panahi and Abbas Kiarostami, who wrote the script, it is essential viewing. Given the fact that Panahi still remains under house arrest for an indeterminate time, facing nebulous and ominous consequences for his art and his activism, "The White Balloon" deserves proper DVD distribution, if not a full-fledged restoration and re-release from a major art-house DVD distributor. I'm not sure what happened to the rights after October Films went under, but the last trace I've seen of a U.S. release was a VHS copy distributed by Evergreen Entertainment in 1997.

Someone, please give me an update on this important film.

This article is related to: Jafar Panahi, Iran

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Tony: I saw this with my girlfriend. She was completely taken in by it. This movie is no better than a soap opera. Absolute drivel, pandering to…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 1:03am

By Joe Britz: While rape is a horrible crime, it doesn't mean we simply toss Blackstone out the window. The foundation of our justice system is innocent…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 28th, 2015 12:31am

By Amelia: It reminds me of the Dark Ages, where people would accuse a woman of being a Witch and everybody would simply believe the accusation because…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 3:25pm

By Joe: There is no rape culture. Rape is a sickening and illegal act but apparently there are some who want to return to the old fashioned lynch mob…

Can Tearjerking Doc "The Hunting Ground" Change Colleges' Sexual Assault Policies?

Jan 27th, 2015 1:31pm

By roosevelto: I think that this movie is many things, one of those is political. Even if we suppose that it wasn't Afflec's intention, when has become…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 5:08pm

By roosevelto: I watched the movie with the most naive eyes possible. I said to myself, don't care about facts, don't care about propaganda, don't care abou…

"Argo" Reconsidered: Ben Affleck is a Right-Wing Propagandist

Jan 16th, 2015 4:53pm

By Anthony Kaufman: "The Look of Silence" will definitely be on next year's list! It hasn't opened in the U.S. yet.

The Top 12 Documentaries of 2014

Jan 3rd, 2015 1:09pm