[Karlovy Vary Film Festival] “Summer with Hope”: Sadaf Foroughi’s visual tour de force

The second feature film by the Iranian director immerses us in contemporary Persian society where everything is controversial. Through a sublime and particularly aesthetic achievement, the filmmaker presents the difficult journey of a young man whose dream is to join the national swimming team. But in Iran any fantasy of emancipation and fulfillment now seems trapped in terribly archaic thought patterns.

However, at the age of 17, Omid dedicates all his time to this passion that devours him and through which he fulfills himself. Unfortunately, he does not register for the national team selections and therefore must compete in another event, this time at sea. Therefore, he must start a new training, and for this he is helped by a friend of his club. But in the very conservative Iranian society, the closeness of the two young men begins to be perceived poorly, and soon Omid finds himself caught up in the vice of the country’s conservative customs.

Impressive visual staging

For his second feature film after Ava, noticed during Critics’ Week at 56the Cannes Film Festival, Sadaf Foroughi is once again interested in Iranian youth. The social purpose of the film is surprisingly associated here with a very elaborate production that gives pride of place to the magnificent shots. The rural spaces of Persia are here sublimated by an impressive sense of framing. The director draws attention again with a bold visual proposal that constitutes a unique aesthetic that we can only salute. Thus, the hope of a better period away from the current obscurantism seems to materialize through the Iranian landscapes, a nation with an extremely rich cultural and civilizational heritage.

A cultural glass ceiling

Unfortunately, in this fictional story, reality is not presented in such an ideal aspect. Very soon the protagonist has to face the pressures of a backward society where everything is subject to the judgment of good morals. From his family environment to public life, Omid seems less and less free in his movements. One of the scenes in the film illustrates this very well with simple fences and walls that the young man must cross to find Mani, his friend who trains him to swim in the sea and with whom he begins to bond. We are then in the middle of the night in the countryside, and the prevailing darkness represents the discretion with which individuals must evolve: in contemporary Persia, freedom is savored in secrecy.

Omid learns to his cost that everything ends up being known, or rather, that everything will be subject to interpretation. From the height of his seventeen innocent years, the young man is found guilty even before being tried. The story then takes the implicitly announced form of a terribly unfair tragedy. Sadaf Foroughi expresses that even today Iranian society is subject to a cultural glass ceiling, a glass ceiling that the youth of the country in search of freedom still do not seem to be able to cross.

In competition for the Crystal Globe award at the 56th Karlovy Vary Film Festival

Image: ©Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

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