// Presented as part of March's Banned Nations Series //
Reza Mirkarimi / 2014, Toronto, Dhaka, Fajr, Granada, Tallinn Black Nights / 88'
Younes is a cab driver doing the rounds in Tehran. When he overhears a self-important businessman threatening blackmail over the phone, he promptly ejects the passenger from his cab. So by the time Sedighe enters his orbit, we know he is a moral man. Sedighe is young, pregnant, and alone— a highly stigmatized status in Iranian society— and implores Younes to drive to a run-down hospital, presumably where she knows a doctor who will receive her with discretion. When the doctor fails to materialize, Younes is plunged into an urgent moral dilemma.
By plucking two ordinary citizens from the streets of Tehran, Iranian filmmaker Reza Mirkarimi weaves a powerful social allegory from the most essential of ingredients. Today premiered at Toronto; Dhaka, where it won Best Feature; Granada, where it won the Audience Award; and Tallinn Black Nights, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize. A bold voice in contemporary Iranian cinema, Mirkarimi's Today was selected as Iran's official submission to the 87th Academy Awards, the third time he has received the honor.
"It's no secret that in recent decades, Iranian filmmakers have risen to the ranks of the best on the world stage. The likes of Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi and Asghar Farhadi are, even if not household names, widely respected among critics and audiences alike. Their films, noted for their rendition of complex human interaction in delicate realist tones, have stirred viewers and compelled them to think through their visions at a deep level. Many of them have been hailed as gems of world cinema. So it's surprising that Reza Mirkarimi's Today, Iran's official entry for best foreign film at the 2015 Academy Awards and a masterwork in its own right, has yet to garner the attention it deserves"
Iranian journalist Nojang Khatami explores the cinematic aims of empathy and perspective in Reza Mirkarimi's Today.
"Whether one reads the film as a straightforward story about one man’s mysterious connection to a strange, sympathetic woman, or a grand allegory about modern Iranian society, the slow-burn narrative and the emotional payoff of the film's subtle final reveal are incredibly effective. Parastuyi's performance is a marvel, communicating a world of pent-up feelings with his quiet gazes. Mirkarimi's characteristically graceful storytelling immerses the audience in a story that, even at its coyest moments, remains intriguing. Today challenges the meaning of virtue and guilt in a country where spirituality is defined and enforced within a very limited, religious scope"
- Amir Soltani, Film Review, The Film Experience
"Compassion runs through Today, whose plain shots and no-budget look hark back to Italian neo-realism. Mirkarimi and his co-scripter Shadmehr Rastin do an excellent job sketching in the characters' social background and the tragedy facing the fragile Sedigheh (newcomer Soheila Golestani), who is about to have a baby without a husband or any relatives in sight"
- Deborah Young, Film Review, The Hollywood Reporter
"Reza Mirkarimi continues to probe social issues through a restrained, tightly focused character drama with Today, his third feature to be chosen as Iran's foreign-language Oscar submission. Following a Tehran cabbie through a day that stretches well into the next once he crosses paths with a distressed young woman, this is a quietly effective portrait of decency and self-sacrifice"
- Dennis Harvey, Film Review, Variety
"Selected by Iran's Culture Ministry for submission to the 2015 Oscars, Today sneaks under the surface of downtown Tehran where good and evil usually live next to each other unnoticed. In a relatively observational film, Mirkarimi’s camera picks two characters from everyday life on the streets of Tehran and lets the sympathetic dynamism between the two strangers emerge onto the screen... Mirkarimi properly reminds us of both the lack of social infrastructure and civil rights to support women (especially single mothers) in a patriarchal society, coupled with the unwritten religious law that, paradoxically enough, obligates the very men of the same patriarchal society to become chivalrous in order to support defenseless women"
- Mansoor Behnam, Film Review, Off Screen
"Mirkarimi is one of the most consistent, creative and essential voices working in Iranian cinema today. His unique brand of filmmaking is delicate and humanist even as it discusses challenging topics like women's issues or religious doubt. His oeuvre, which includes eight feature films, has rarely received the attention it deserves outside of Iran"
- Amir Soltani, Interview with Reza Mirkarimi - Toronto, Hello Cinema
"For the way it manages to achieve big dramatic and political resonance out of a deceitfully simple story"
- FIPRESCI Jury Statement, Tallin Black Nights 2014