Iranian Film Festival NY 2019 Review: I WANT TO DANCE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

From January 10 through 15, the first annual Iranian Film Festival New York took place. Though I was unable to attend the event, I was given the opportunity to cover some of the films which screened during the festival. The first of which was a delightful and heartfelt comedy that won the “Audience Award.” Though the film probably seems like a benign and mostly safe movie here in the U.S., the subject matter obviously raised some ire in Iran and was banned for four years. Well, thankfully it is now finally reaching audiences overseas because I Want To Dance is such a lovably beautiful film that deserves much love in return.

Reza Kianian stars as Bahram Farzaneh, a writer in the twilight of his life that not only suffers from writer’s block, but also has been in long, drawn-out funk since the death of his beloved wife. As Bahram struggles to write and find other joys in his life, friends and acquaintances around his age are slowly, but surely passing away. When a frightening, but harmless car accident rattles him, he begins hearing a song in his head that makes him feel like dancing. While everyone around him thinks Bahram is losing his mind, the elder gentleman feels like he has once again discovered a great joy that has been missing for so long.

Written by Omid Sohrabi and directed by Bahman Farmanara, I Want To Dance unabashedly celebrates la joie de vivre (the joy of living) and it is just too damn difficult not to smile and feel good while it does. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or what troubles one faces in life, if one does not take time to find some joy and excitement, then what is the real point of living? That truly is the key message of this film. And though the story does have a few small hiccups, it still works as an effective piece of euphoric cinema.

Lead actor Reza Kianian delivers a fantastic performance as Bahram Farzaneh, a character who is depressed and befuddled at first, but slowly allows himself to get into the rhythm of life, music, and happiness. His character eventually befriends a con-artist named Maryam (Mahnaz Afshar), a younger woman who, at first, extorts money from Bahram, but soon begins to become his closest ally. These two actors share a lovely chemistry that works on both comedic and poignant levels.

Because of the lovely messages, the film’s solid presentation of them, and because of the superb performances by the lead actors, it gave me much joy and contentment to review this film. It is certainly a movie that deserves to reach more people. If one happens to be in NYC on January 30, and needs something to do, The IFC Center will present an encore screening of the movie at 7:00 p.m. (EST). As of now, I have no further information on any U.S. theatrical releases or availability on any other formats, so be sure to check out this great movie if given the chance.

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