In Jafar Panahi's inventive metafiction – the lively if tragedy-tinged story of a filmmaker becoming embroiled in village politics while trying to shoot his new movie remotely – there are no bears.
They're a story made up to keep the wayward from straying and perhaps a loose metaphor for the filmmaking ban imposed on Panahi, which he consistently, resourcefully, playfully defied, but which led to his July '22 imprisonment after he voiced support for other dissident detainees. No Bears is typically puckish in form, using the film-within-the-film for self-critique, while the village story, of an illicit love affair involving a young woman promised to another man, provides social commentary, but this is also the ever-avuncular Panahi at his fiercest. He needs to be. There may be no literal ursine threat, but the fake bears of repressive authoritarian control are everywhere, and they're hungry.