One of Ali's fares is an addict who leads him into a drug den that is grim and yet also one of the most beguiling locations in the movie. In this and in several other films in the festival, crack is the opiate of the people, a means to escape the oppression of a system that the filmmakers dare not specify and refer to only in symbols. At the outset of Alireza Davoodnejad's SALVE (2010; January 21 at 8 pm + January 22 at 1 pm), a young girl is chased out of her house by her brutish, belt-wielding father. A series of other abusive men then victimize her, starting with her drug-dealing boyfriend, who has hooked her on his product and plans to pimp her out.
The girl's last lifeline is the cell phone her grandmother keeps in her chador. Gnarled and bandy-legged though she might be, Granny is more resourceful than she looks. She's determined to rescue her beloved granddaughter, so she gets in touch with her own long-estranged sister, a rich property owner whose estate is managed by her grandson, a creep who embodies all the worst aspects of capitalistic, bullying, pious privilege. The two old women join forces to counter the oppressive patriarchy embodied by almost every male character in the film. Such is the subtext, at any rate, but the handheld tracking shots and skewed timeline intensify the drama and the verisimilitude as Davoodnejad avoids easy resolutions in his critique of class and gender injustice.
Another addict turns up in Mohsen Abdolvahhab's Crash-like multi-narrative PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB (2010; January 19 at 6:10 pm + January 20 at 8:10 pm). In one of the triptych of stories, an elderly couple engage in a tragi-comic face-off with a young man who loiters outside their apartment door and claims to be a TV repairman. Complicating matters is the man's infant daughter, whom he has brought with him because his wife, so he claims, has left him — for good reason, it seems, since he is caught at one point puffing on a pipe. The baby touches the old woman's maternal instincts, but as is the case in Salve, old-fashioned tough love from the older generation alone might not be enough to fill the void in the soul of contemporary Iranian society.
The other stories in Please Do Not Disturb also take aim at iniquities in Iranian society. A young woman attempts to report her husband — an up-and-coming TV-game-show host — to the police for domestic violence. He did give her a black eye, but the real reason she's upset with him is that he's abandoned his serious journalistic ambitions for a well-paying job as a hack. Religious idealism fares no better than journalistic integrity in the third story, as a country cleric, who has relocated to Tehran to make money as a divorce and wedding broker, discovers his conscience in the unlikely form of the man who robbed him on the subway. Calling the cleric on his stolen cell phone, the thief gleefully taunts his victim, another instance where those who tell the truth tend to be those outside the law.