The story is about the world of a small family with familiar dreams and not so remarkable problems. The mother is trying to lead everything to save her family, but small events disarrange all her plans.
Razieh wants a fat goldfish for the Iranian New Years celebration instead of the skinny ones in her family's pond at home, because the fat fish looks like it's dancing when it swims. After many attempts she and her brother convince their mother to give them her last bit of money. Between their home and the fish store, Razieh loses the money.. She finds it, but it is temptingly just out of her reach. Written by
Rudi Sahebi <email@example.com>
You're whining again!
Mom refuses to give me money for the goldfish.
Don't you like ours?
You call these goldfish, you haven't seen the others. It's as though they're dancing when they move their fins. And they've got so many fins.
The shopkeeper said 100 tomans.
100 tomans! You want to pay 100 tomans for a goldfish. You can watch two films with that money. You're nuts.
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In his directorial debut, Jafar Panahi - a devoted pupil of Iranian film-god Abbas Kiarostami - is able to encapsulate the stubbornness and curiosity of a seven-year-old Tehranian girl so authentically (by use of newcomer Aida Mohammadkhani) that we forget that we are watching fiction unfold.
The White Balloon has a continuous feel that is obtained by allowing the story to unravel in real time. An unseen radio informs us that the Iranian New Year is almost upon the town; a tradition for this annual event is to either catch or buy a fish (fish represent life). Razieh, the little girl, is unsatisfied with the selection of fish in the family's pond. She complains that the family's fish are too "skinny." Eventually, Razieh's brother, Ali (Mohsen Kalifi's only role thus far), cons their mother into letting Razieh have a 500 note (Iranian money) to buy the fish that she wants. On her way to the market, Razieh loses the money two times. It is the second loss that is the most serious - the money falls into the cellar of a closed shop through a sidewalk drain. The remainder of the film is devoted to the introduction of various strangers offering either to help retrieve the note or pass the time with light-humored conversation.
Beautiful cinematography (winner of the Camera d'or at Cannes in 1994), memorable characters, and stunning direction backed by Kiarostami's expertly written script make for a great film that was reminiscent of my viewing of John Sayles' Secret of Roan Inish. Like Sayles' film, there is a magical, absorbing quality to The White Balloon that spellbinds the viewer regardless of age.
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