Just sometimes, a very special new film comes along, gloriously infused with warmth, humanity and a sense of humour that strikes just the right chords. Panah Panahi’s feature debut Hit The Road (Jadde Khaki) is just that rare sort of film – a delightful, moving and memorable new feature the demands to be seen.
The son of acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, 37 year-old Panah Panahi has served his time as an assistant director and editor on his father’s films, but given the evidence of his debut he has the film personality and talent of his own that engagingly sets him apart. The film’s backdrop of a road trip may well be a familiar one, but so much of the film feels fresh and engaging.
Premiering at the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival, the film opens beautifully, with a long scene set inside a borrowed car as a family head through the Iranian countryside. A young boy (six-year-old Rayan Sarlak) pretends to play piano on a hand-drawn keyboard on the leg cast sported by his father (Hassan Madjooni) as classical music resounds from the soundtrack. The scene gradually reveals the others in the car, the boy’s cheerful mother (Pantea Panahiha) and his older brother (Amin Simiar).
The journey is punctuated with moments of gentle domestic turmoil as the family head across country. Ranging from the boy grumpily having a turn as the parents take his phone away through to the exhaustion of his parents as they deal with the challenges of the trip.
As the journey progresses the mood changes and it becomes more sombre rather than playful as it becomes clear the family are on no simple vacation, but instead are secretively aiming at arriving at a border in the north of the country. Their relationships change and develop as things get more and more tense, with the film beautifully shot by cinematographer Amin Jafari.
The delight of the film is young Rayan Sarlak – particularly in a scene where he wonderfully lip-synchs to song – who brims with charm and energy. But in truth all of the performances are spot on and given real heart and humanity thanks to the sure touch from Panah Panahi.
Iran, 2021, 93mins
Dir/scr Panah Panahi
Production JP Productions
International sales Celluloid Dreams
Producers Panah Panahi, Mastaneh Mohajer
Cinematography Amin Jafari
Editors Ashkan Mahri, Amir Etminan
Music Payman Yazdanian
Main cast Hassan Madjooni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak,Amin Simiar