Meeting with Masoud Soheili as one of the guest speakers in the Hybrid Internship Program for Film Festival Writers, Minikino Film Week 9 was fun yet insightful. He shared his perspective on writing, programming, and told about the filmmaking situation in Iran – about the struggle of Iranian filmmakers who don’t want to be interrupted by government repression. They tried to make films that tell reality as it is; giving voice to the marginalized class without hiding the existing gap between them and the rest. As a result, these films are often well regarded in many international film festivals, as a meeting place for sharing perspectives from various countries. This then became something that I remember when watching File (Parvandeh) (2022), a short film by Sonia K. Hadad.
File revolves around a child named Koosha Yari, a 6-year-old mute child who attends a pre-school health screening with his mother. Typically, films portray children as innocent and honest, often speaking their minds without filter due to their limited exposure to the complexities of the world around them. However, the silent child, Yari creates a mystery that drives the film forward.
The audience is invited to speculate about the cause of Yari’s silence. Was he tortured? Was he kidnapped? Spoiler alert! We are finally facing a turning point when Yari finally speaks to the doctor who examined him. “Please don’t tell my mother.”
I find this is the most interesting set in the film, where Yari considers the examination room as a safe space, in fact it might not. The story moves into a different direction.
I usually watch child abuse theme in films as too vulgar because it explicitly shows an abusive act. However, the director of File took this subject in a more subtle manner. The audience witnesses a child trapped between the interests of adults. I really appreciate the cinematographer’s approach in showing how awkward Yari is when interacting with the adults. Yari is always framed using high-angle shots, giving a sense of intimidating silence.
The adults depicted in this film are truly disturbing. A doctor who neglects their patient’s requests, a social service worker who lacks empathy, a secretary who fails to provide kind customer service, and a mother who implants fear in her child. They don’t seem to be doing their job properly.
The constant ringing telephones in the background is an intriguing detail. Perhaps there are a lot of cases of abuse against children that failed to receive proper attention. This case is often misinterpreted as the child’s inability to accept rude forms of communication – which was once considered normal.
File depicts the reality of a person’s silence due to an institution’s incompetence. Through the limitations of space and characters, impressive cinematography, acting, and brilliant sound design, they all engage audiences about Yari’s bitter story.
By depicting the struggle between silence and trust, I interpret this film as an attempt to address the silence of civil society in Iran against a certain authority, namely an unjust government. The people remain silent as they fear their voices will be ignored. However, when this civil society begins to put their trust in outsiders, be it the media, or other countries, they are once again disappointed because each side has its own interests.