Film Scouts Interviews

"Badkonake Sefid" (The White Balloon) Press Conference
at the 1995 New York Film Festival

by Henri Béhar
Remarks by JAFAR PANAHI, director of "The White Balloon":

"I like the scene with the snake charmers. Not because it's the best but because of Razieh, the little girl. For the first time, Razieh doesn't listen to the grownups who have always forbidden her to see snake charmers... Later she'll confess: 'I wanted to see what's bad for me to see.' Razieh dares.

"When I was a kid, there were times when my sisters did not dare to put their noses out of the door, they were not allowed to go out. That actually suited me, since they gave me money to go see movies and tell them when I came back. I used to choose a raised spot and, like all great storytellers, I would recount the story with passion and accents. I would even sing and whistle the music...

"Sometimes my mother suddenly started to recite her prayer very loudly, which meant 'Stop it!'. I loved these moments of silence; they reminded me of the interlude at the movies.

"Unlucky me if they didn't like the movie I had seen, for they would then tell my father I had gone to the cinema. That was terrible, because even though he himself was crazy about films, he did not want me to go to the movies.

"He loved popular action movies. I had seen him many times at the theatre. So I tried not to catch his eye. He used to tell me: 'These films are not good for you to see.' But I wanted to see what wasn't good for me to see.

"Now, many years later, my own son is crazy about popular action movies and only wants to see old Westerns, however poor the quality of the prints. When I ask him, 'Why do you watch films that are no good for you?', he says, as Razieh does: 'I want to see what's bad for me.'"


The first day of Spring, March 21, is also New Year's Day in Iran. As tradition has always had it, seven-year-old Razieh wants to buy a goldfish for the celebration. With the help of her brother (himself a film-buff), she persuades her mother to give her her last banknote--as long as she returns with the change--and runs off to buy the fish. On her way to the market, however, Razieh loses the money. As she looks for the bill in the crowded streets of the big city, she experiences all sorts of (charming) adventures and encounters the oddest assortment of people: unsavory snake charmers, a kindly old lady, a young soldier on leave, an Afghani balloon-seller and more.


Jafar Panahi was born in 1960 in Mianeh, Iran. After graduating in film directing from the College of Cinema and Television in Tehran, he began his career directing short documentaries and features for Iranian Television and served as assistant director on Kambuzia Partovi's "The Fish" and Abbas Kiarostami's "Through the Olive Trees". Panahi's directorial credits includes "The Wounded Heads" (1988), "The Second Look" (1989), "Kish" (1991), "The Last Examination" (1992) and "The Friend" (1992). THE WHITE BALLOON is his first feature.

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