Sideshow and Janus Films have picked up all U.S. rights to No Bears, the latest film from Iranian dissident director Jafar Panahi. The drama premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won a special jury prize. We Like has acquired all Canadian rights .The deal was negotiated by Celluloid Dreams on behalf of the filmmakers with Sideshow and Janus Films.
Sideshow and Janus will do a US theatrical release for the film and said they are planning a best director Oscar campaign for Panahi, who has become a face of the resistance to the Iranian regime. The acclaimed director of Taxi, The Circle and This is Not a Film is currently in prison, serving a 6-year sentence for his protesting the government in Tehran. The sentence was originally handed down in 2010, when Panahi also received a 20-year filmmaking ban. He, however, continued to make movies in secret, using himself as the main actor. His work for that period includes 2013 Berlin Film Festival winner Taxi and 3 Faces, which won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.
Iranian authorities detained Panahi in July when he visited the Tehran prosecutor’s office to inquire about the cases of fellow detained dissident filmmakers, Mohamad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad. Rasoulof and al-Ahmad were swept up after they took to social media to oppose the government’s crackdown on public demonstrations.
Since Panahi’s arrest, the protest movement has only grown, fueled by the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the strict law requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab, or headscarf. She died in custody under suspicious circumstances, with her family alleging she was beaten by officers. Her death triggered the most widespread and aggressive anti-government protests seen in Iran in years. The response by the regime has been brutal. Norwegian-based Iran Human Rights claim at least 76 protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces in the past 11 days. Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) has publicly called for artists worldwide to declare their solidarity with the people of Iran.
In No Bears, Panahi stars as a beleaguered Iranian director who has been banned from filmmaking, trying to direct a movie on the sly while contemplating feeling over the border to Turkey. The life-imitates-art-imitates-life concept has been at the core of all of Panahi’s recent films.
After its Venice premiere, No Bears screened at the Toronto Film Festival and will be part of the official program of the New York and London film festivals.