MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 8, 2019: 3 FACES

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motw logo 1-35The life of an actress isn’t always an easy one — even more so in a country like Iran, where traditional currents run strong and “following your dreams” isn’t so simple for any woman, let alone a woman who wants to take to the stage. In his latest uniquely crafted film, Jafar Panahi again defies the Iranian government’s ban on his film production to explore themes of dreams vs family and social obligations. 3 Faces, a compelling drama about craft and connection.

The film opens on a young woman, Marziyeh Resaei (playing herself), filming what appears to be a suicide-attempt video with her phone in a remote Iranian cave. Wracked with misery because she isn’t going to be allowed to pursue her goal of attending conservatory and learning to be an actress, Marziyeh’s final wish is that her plight become known.

That seems to happen when the video makes its way via social media to well-known actress Behnaz Jafari (also herself), who drops everything — including her role in an active shoot — and sets out to find Marziyeh with the help of director Panahi (himself). Their search for answers leads them to a small rural village, where they’re welcomed by locals and end up at the home of now-reclusive legend Shahrzad. As they look for answers, they observe and participate in the village’s traditions — and adjust to its slower pace.

Unhurried and almost as realistic in feel as a documentary, 3 Faces combines strong performances with an affectionate but honest look at a complex culture with powerful currents of tradition. Social media — which can connect people who might never otherwise meet — and modern technology play key roles, but so do the rituals of conversation and hospitality. Trying to find a path forward amid these conflicting interests can be challenging, especially for women (as Marziyeh has learned), but the struggle can lead to moments of powerful connection. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Marilyn Ferdinand: Since the Iranian government imposed a 20-year filmmaking ban on Jafar Panahi in 2010, the scrappy director has made and smuggled out four films, including his latest, 3 Faces. The irrepressible Panahi is critical of Iran’s repressions against women and continues to plead for their freedom in this farcical, subversive film. Read full review.

Marina Antunes What begins as a horrific and traumatizing scene turns into a beautifully innovative road-trip movie through the Iranian countryside as director Jafar Panahi and actress Behnaz Jafari, playing themselves (or close versions thereof), set off on a mission to find a young woman. Panahi’s observational approach leads to a number of interactions and stories that paint a sometimes sad, at times funny and always engaging portrait of contemporary Iran.

MaryAnn Johanson I love Panahi’s films, and his latest is no disappointment. I love the empathy he has for the women here, even as they also exasperate him, or exclude him from their conversations. It’s the sort of acknowledgement that could probably only come in a film from a culture with such a gender divide, though only from a very aware male filmmaker, that women are actively excluding men from their lives, as in the sequence where he is forced to sleep in the car rather than join the women in the retired actress’s house. It’s a provocative and unexpected perspective.

Sheila Roberts In his powerful new film, “3 Faces,” Iranian director Jafar Panahi embarks on an intriguing road trip with actress Behnaz Jafari after a disturbing plea for help takes them to rural Iran in search of the truth. The complex detective story explores the experiences of three generations of artistic women – a well-known film/TV actress (Jafari), an aspiring actress (Marziyeh Rezaei) whose plans to attend drama school are thwarted by the patriarchal norms of her village, and an ostracized elderly actress (Maedeh Erteghaei) who turns to painting and poetry to express her creative self in old age. Noteworthy are the strong performances by Panahi and his memorable cast who play themselves and the engaging way their encounters with local villagers offer meaningful insight into long-standing beliefs and customs.

Jennifer Merin Internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, considered subversive by his government and banned from making movies for 20 years, inventive clever ways to practice his craft. In This is Not A Film (2011) he dramatized his own life by documenting himself under house arrest. 3 Faces is another act of defiance. Still banned, but no longer under house arrest, Pamahi takes to the road in response to a plea for help from a young actress whose rural family demands that lead a traditional life. The plot twists itself into an intriguing mystery about the fate of the girl, now missing. Most interesting is the film’s reveal of rural life inIran, and the ongoing hardships faced by Iranian women of all ages. Oviously in sympathy with the oppressed, Pahani captures the troubling nuances of women’s daily life and the subtle support they give to each other. 3 Faces isn’t playing in Iran, but it is touring the world. You should see it. Read full review.


Title: 3 Faces

Directors: Jafar Panahi

Release Date: March 8, 2019

Running Time: 100 minutes

Language: Farsi with English subtitles

Screenwriter: Jafar Panahi and Nader Saeivar

Principal Cast: Behnaz Jafari, Jafar Panahi, Marziyeh Rezaei

Distribution Company: Kino Lorber


Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Kristen Page-Kirby, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).