Jafar Panahi his film “No Bears” was acquired by U.S. distributors Sideshow and Janus Films.

The U.S. rights to “No Bears,” directed by Iranian director Jafar Panahi, have been purchased by Sideshow and Janus Films, while the Canadian rights have been purchased by Films We Like.

This month’s Venice Film Festival debut, “No Bears,” depicts two overlapping romances. According to the official summary, “in both, the lovers are tormented by hidden, unavoidable impediments, the force of superstition, and the mechanics of power.”

Jafar Panahi himself starred with Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobaseri, Bakhtiar Panjei, Mina Kavani, Narjes Dalaram, and Reza Heydari in this film that he also wrote, produced, and directed.

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The film premiered as a Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival after winning the Special Jury Prize in Venice. The New York Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival will be their next stops.

Jafar Panahi's 'No Bears'

After being jailed this year for criticizing the Iranian government, Jafar Panahi was recently ordered to begin serving a six-year sentence granted in 2010.

Previously, Jafar Panahi had been given a six-year prison term and a twenty-year ban from directing films, creating scripts, or doing any kind of interview with Iranian or international media. Despite government efforts at censorship, he has kept creating pictures.

For his recent work in film, see “This Is Not a Film,” which had a Special Screening at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival; “Closed Curtain,” which won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival; “Taxi,” which won the Golden Bear at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival; and “3 Faces,” which won the best screenplay at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

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A best director Oscar campaign for Jafar Panahi is in the works, with support from Sideshow and Janus Films. Celluloid Dreams is handling the foreign distribution sales for the film, which means it will be shown in theatres.

The 2021 Cannes premiere of “Drive My Car” by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, produced by Sideshow and Janus Films, earned the director and screenwriter nods as well as the best picture and adapted screenplay. It earned over $2.3 million at the North American box office and was well praised by reviewers. It was the first Japanese film to be nominated for best picture.

As Hengameh Panahi, president of Celluloid Dreams, put it, “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 due to his subsequent refusal to comply with censorship requests.

Director Jafar Panahi

Hengameh Panahi elaborated, “His life is fully centered on filmmaking and he endures despite all hurdles and limits.” The movies are his muse, and creating films is his passion. I feel so lucky that “No Bears” has found a home with distributors who care so much and do so much outstanding effort. The film is an overwhelmingly humanistic reaction to a dehumanizing circumstance.

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Jafar Panahi is one of the world’s best directors, Jonathan Sehring of Sideshow said. With few resources and many limitations, he has created a succession of remarkable stories. His films are political acts of resistance that are also profoundly enjoyable, and his best work is “No Bears.” We can’t wait to release the film and have it reviewed by the Directors Branch of the Academy.

Celluloid Dreams arranged the arrangement with Sideshow and Janus Films on behalf of the filmmakers.