Jafar Panahi’s ‘No Bears’ Acquired by Sideshow and Janus Films While Iranian Director is Imprisoned

The film won the Special Jury Prize out of this year’s Venice Film Festival

No Bears
Venice Film Festival

Sideshow and Janus Films have acquired the U.S. rights to “No Bears,” the next film from Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who is imprisoned and serving a six-year prison sentence by the Iranian government.

Panahi’s latest film made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival this fall and won the Special Jury Prize. It later played at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The accolades came shortly after Panahi was arrested by Iranian authorities after he had inquired about the status of two other detained Iranian directors. The government has now forced him to serve out a six-year jail sentence originally issued to Panahi in December 2010. At that time, he was banned for 20 years from directing movies, writing screenplays or giving any form of interview with an Iranian or foreign press, though he has since showcased other films such as “This Is Not a Film,” “Closed Curtain,” “Taxi” and “3 Faces” in defiance of his order and state-attempted censorship.

“No Bears” will receive a theatrical release from Sideshow and Janus and will also receive an awards campaign push, though no release date has been specified. The film also be released in Canada by Films We Like.

“No Bears” portrays two parallel love stories. In both, the lovers are troubled by hidden, inevitable obstacles, the force of superstition and the mechanics of power. Panahi wrote, produced, directed and also stars in the film, and he’s joined in the cast by Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobaseri, Bakhtiar Panjei, Mina Kavani, Narjes Dalaram and Reza Heydari.

“I’ve been working with Jafar since his debut, ‘The White Balloon,’ which was the first significant North American release of an Iranian movie and the only film by Jafar to be released in his own country because of his subsequent refusal to comply with censorship requests. His life is entirely focused on filmmaking and he persists despite all obstacles and limitations,” president of Celluloid Dreams, Hengameh Panahi, said. “Cinema is his inspiration and filmmaking his life. I am extremely happy to have found such a good home for ‘No Bears,’ with distributors who care deeply and do such extraordinary work. The movie is a resoundingly humanist response to an inhumane situation.” 

“Jafar Panahi is one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. He has made a series of astonishing narratives with extremely limited means and under great restrictions. His films are deeply entertaining political acts of resistance and ‘No Bears’ is his crowning masterpiece,” Sideshow’s Jonathan Sehring said in a statement. “We are incredibly excited to bring this film into the world and also make sure that it gets serious consideration from the Directors Branch of the Academy.” 

“No Bears” will also play at the New York Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.

The deal was negotiated by Celluloid Dreams on behalf of the filmmakers with Sideshow and Janus Films.