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CANNES 2024 Competition

Review: The Seed of the Sacred Fig


- CANNES 2024: Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof helms a remarkable political film about the feminist revolution in his country through the carefully scripted misadventures of a small family

Review: The Seed of the Sacred Fig
Soheila Golestani, Mahsa Rostami and Setareh Maleki in The Seed of the Sacred Fig

Sentenced to eight years in jail at the beginning of the month for “collusion against national security” and having discreetly fled his country right away, Mohammad Rasoulof has offered the 77th Cannes Film Festival’s competition an excellent film, and it is understandable that the Iranian authorities wanted to prevent its international circulation at all costs. For not only does the director defend freedom valiantly and at his own risk as a citizen, he is also a cinematic auteur of the highest order (as attest his Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020 with There Is No Evil [+see also:
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and his three participations in Un Certain Regard in Cannes with the winner A Man of Integrity in 2017, Manuscripts Don’t Burn in 2013, and the directing award-winning Goodbye in 2011). His latest opus, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, is an impressive and gripping demonstration of that, illustrating the power of fiction to communicate the most acute dilemmas that are piercing societies, in particular those that are the most despotic (generally masculine), confronted with the rebellion against injustice carried out by their youth and their female population.

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“Family must be our priority.” For the archetypal housewife that is Najmeh (Soheila Golestani), the promotion to the position of investigating judge of the revolutionary court of Tehran that her husband Iman (Misagh Zare) has received, after 20 years of work, is wonderful news: their daughters, the academic Rezvan (Mahsa Rostami) and the high schooler Sana (Setareh Maleki), will soon each have their own bedrooms in the future 4-bedroom house that their father’s new status will grant them access to. And a dishwasher! And nevermind if Iman has to silence his conscience and ratify death sentences without investigating them, by simple decisions from above. Most importantly, the girls need to be irreproachable and keep quiet about their father’s activities for fear of retaliation. In fact, Iman was even given a gun as a precaution, whose existence the parents decide to hide from their children. In any case, everybody’s attention very quickly turns to other concerns related in one direction and continuously by the television: the death of Ina Mahsa Amini in September 2022, which sets fire to the city streets, gives birth to the movement “Woman, Life, Freedom” and unleashes repressive tactics. These events completely destabilise the family balance, to an increasingly worrisome degree…

Injecting his narrative with numerous and very real videos exposing many instances of police brutality against the population, Mohammad Rasoulof threads a brilliant script in the huis-clos of the apartment (before a final act outside the city mixing together realism, quasi-thriller elements and a vast parable) pivoting around the mother, whose trust in the official discourse crumbles in the face of her daughters’ revolted and shocked ardour. At the same time, the father, under professional pressure and challenged under his own roof, becomes more rigid. By dissecting this family microcosm at the heart of the ambient chaos, with a consummate art for twists and turns, the filmmaker masterfully delivers a fascinating film and a whole set of pieces of information and evidence in mirror, about a theocracy drifting towards authoritarianism that feels the ground collapsing under its feet when women unite to defend themselves.

The Seed of the Sacred Fig was produced by German outfit Run Way Pictures and co-produced by French company Parallel45. International sales are handled by Films Boutique.

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(Translated from French)

Photogallery 23/05/2024: Cannes 2024 - The Seed of the Sacred Fig

22 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Mohammad Rasoulof, Golshifteh Farahani, Setareh Malek, Mahsa Rostami, Niousha Akhshi
© 2024 Fabrizio de Gennaro for Cineuropa -,

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