Venice Festival May Screen Jafar Panahi’s Documentary on Iran Flood Victims

A documentary film by the award-winning Iranian director Jafar Panahi and the veteran actress Pouri Banayi on the plight of people in the southern flood-stricken provinces of Khuzestan and Lorestan could be screened at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, which will be held from August 28 to September 7, 2019, the Bani Film online newspaper has reported.

[aesop_image img=”پوری-بنایی-.jpg” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”off” captionsrc=”custom” caption=”Iranian director Jafar Panahi and the veteran actress Pouri Banayi. Source: Kayhan London” captionposition=”center” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Panahi traveled through the flood-stricken regions and spoken to many people who have lost their homes and belongings. The film highlights the media blackout of the humanitarian crisis caused by the flood. There are unconfirmed reports about Panahi’s plan to submit the film to this year’s Venice Film Festival. 

Banayi accompanied Panahi during his tour of regions worst hit by the flood. It is, however, unclear if Banayi will appear in the final cut of the film. If so, it would be her first film project in 40 years.

Panahi posted a series of video clips of himself and Banayi traveling in a car on dirt roads in Khuzestan. The caption read: “Traveling with Pouri Banayi through the flood-hit regions of our beloved land. Please turn the page to see more.” 

The first clip shows Banayi and others loading a van with food care packages before setting off to visit flood victims in Khuzestan. 

On their way to visit flood victims living in temporary shelters, Banayi asks: “Do you know where we are going? Our guide does not seem to know where we are heading.”

Panahi responds: “That’s correct. The water has washed away many roads. There are no signs, so it is easy to make a wrong turn and get lost. The flood has destroyed agricultural products, livestock, and crops. People cannot go back to their homes because of safety and security concerns. They have set up tents on the outskirts of their villages to protect their properties and whatever livestock they have left. Besides food, these people also need medicine and health and hygiene products.”

In another segment, Panahi, Banayi and their group arrive at a temporary camp where many families live in tents. They are mostly farmers who have lost everything in the flood.

Speaking to the camera, a man says: “We fought for this land for eight years [a reference to the Iran-Iraq war 1980-89]. We defended this land and, therefore, deserve better. The water will not recede for a few months, so we will be left without a source of income. We will have nothing to do for the next six months. By next year we will be in serious trouble.”

An old man says: “Many people are unemployed. They [the government] must find work for these people.”   

Panahi asks: “Can you go back to your village?”

Everybody shouts in unison “No.” 

Another man says: “You can walk to the flooded fields. Would you like to see the farms?” 

The following piece of footage shows a field covered with floodwater. Panahi asks: “Was this your farm? What did you plant here?”

A man answers: “Tomatoes, cucumber, and other vegetables. Everything is under water now.” 

Panahi’s group arrives at an abandoned farmhouse. He asks: “Was this your farm?” A man’s voice off camera responds: “Yes. It is under water now.”

After distributing food care packages, Panahi’s group leave the campsite.

In the last clip, a young boy rushes towards the car and hands back a food care package to Banayi saying: “This one is extra, give it to the next village.”

Another clip posted on Instagram by marcopolo_ir shows Panahi walking through a residential area in the southern province of Lorestan, which has been severely affected by floodwaters. 

In the short clip, Panahi speaks to a man and his family who says: “My brother and I built this house. Floodwaters have washed away all my brother’s tools. The house was completely flooded. Water has severely damaged the foundation of the house.”

Marcopolo_ir, who posted the clip wrote: “Dear Jaar Panahi. I was happy to see you walking by yourself-and without a massive entourage of reporters and network cameras-among the people affected by the flood.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]