District Terminal


Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

District Terminal
"The daily routine of a simple junkie-dreamer-poet who slowly gets lost in all the layers and worlds of the film just becomes too chaotic."

Iranian cinema has developed its own distinctive style. Almost every film originating in this Middle Eastern country (or at least those which reach the West) uses multiple levels of narration, often crossing the fourth wall, using the meta levels, or connecting different worlds. No wonder, since for many years Iranian creators have been looking for creative solutions to deal with censorship, iron rules setting the boundaries for art and the authoritarian apparatus terrorising people with constant surveillance and the threat of many years of imprisonment. The full-length debut of Bardia Yadegari and Ehsan Mirhoddrini, District Terminal, is a film that combines all these features of Iranian cinema, but is also an attempt to fortune-tell the future of Iran as observed in the crooked mirror of political and social commentary.

Peyman (played by one of the directors, Bardi Yadegari) is a poet who faces not only the inaccessibility of the state apparatus that prevents him from spreading his artistic wings, the poverty, ironically represented by ever-increasing cigarettes prices, but also his internal demons: forbidden romance and addiction to heroin. Peyman represents not only the Iranian culture, devastated by censorship, but also the Iranians in general, living in a constant anxiety of internal surveillance and the possibility of war.

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The hero's narcotic dreams seem to reflect national psychosis – balancing on a thin line between the abyss of two extremes: escaping into the decadent hedonism or falling into the trap of authoritarianism. This impression is enhanced by the effect of closure. The film was shot during a pandemic, the creators, together with their families and friends, cast all the roles, and their private spaces served as the set design.

Unfortunately, the problem of the Iranian debutants is the same eclecticism that was behind the idea of ??shooting District Terminal. The daily routine of a simple junkie-dreamer- poet who slowly gets lost in all the layers and worlds of the film just becomes too chaotic. An ambitious attempt to connect a social sci-fi like The Truman Show with the depth of a poetic vibe, reminiscent of The Man Who Sleeps, ends with incomprehensible gibberish.

Although it would be unfair to say that District Terminal is inept, one could expect more from the creators who were cooperating on such high-profile production as There Is No Evil by Mohammad Rasoulof – Yadegari was an assistant director and Mirhoddrini made his debut as an actor. Perhaps dealing with the cruel subject of an oppressed nation turned out to be too overwhelming. One could get the impression that Iran is not a country for artists any more.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2021
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A narcotic dream reflecting Iranian national psychosis.

Director: Ehsan Mirhosseini, Bardia Yadegari

Writer: Ehsan Mirhosseini, Bardia Yadegari

Starring: Bardia Yadegari, Ali Hemmati, Farideh Azadi, Sara Ajorlou

Year: 2021

Runtime: 116 minutes

Country: Iran, Germany


BIFF 2021

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