THERE’s an extremely tense moment in Kheiron‘s All Three of Us (Nous trois ou rien). The film’s protagonists, while traveling in a car on their way out of Iran, are stopped at a road block and searched by Islamist militants.
“They never search babies”, character Hibat resolutely says in his head as his body is frisked by a policeman, while holding onto his infant son, whose diapers conceal important documents. Hibat’s confidence shatters however when the police, done searching the adults, demand to frisk the baby.
After some silent hesitance, Hibat hands the infant over. Within seconds, the child vomits, and the policeman returns him to his parents, who quickly get back into the car and break into a raucous celebration of their son, Nouchi, the lifesaver.
Tense, yet offbeat. That’s exactly how we’d describe French-language film All Three Of Us, one of sixteen films in competition at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival. Here in Tokyo, it finally premiered to Asian audiences yesterday.
A comedy more than anything else, All Three Of Us is largely based on Kheiron’s own father and the struggle faced by his rebellious parents in Iran during a time of political injustice. Kheiron is recognised in France for being a notable stand-up comedian and artist, and this marks his directorial debut.
The film begins with the life story of Hibat, explaining the kind of upbringing and experiences which has resulted in the man he would one day become. He eventually meets young, spunky Fereshteh, and the two marry.
After a crackdown on non-Islamists followed by a series of painful experiences in their own homeland, the optimistic, determined couple leave for France, where they eventually become recognized social activists who help facilitate assimilation in a multi-racial French town.
All Three of Us is important as a highly successful exercise at displaying the meaning of democracy and tolerance across two vastly different regions.
The Iranians are depicted as communal beings in need of basic rights, but are oppressed with weapons and violence from a dictatorial rule. The French, while relatively better off, couldn’t grasp the concept of community and didn’t know how to put into use what the government provided them.
Tying the loose ends and connecting the dots are Hibat and Fereshteh, who together facilitate social progress in a French residential area by encouraging discussion between dissenting parties and exposing the multi-ethnic townfolk to the world beyond their walls, and to one another.
It’s a very modern film by a young filmmaker and it is simply chock full of charm. From the way the film presents itself down to the nature of its humour, this is something even the ADHD-afflicted could lap up.
Playing Hibat is Kheiron himself, who portrays his father as a steadfast, bold man. Hibat is utterly likeable from start to end, even when he absolutely refuses to compromise for the sake of his own health in prison. The role of Fereshteh is performed by an impeccable Leila Bekhti, who grounds every other character with quick pacing, humour and sensible nature.
Also excellent are actors Gerard Darmon and Zabou Breitman, playing the progressive, accommodating parents of Fereshteh, who despite their distaste for politics, are no less supportive for their daughter.
All Three of Us also boasts some clever, snappy editing which helps keep things interesting. From its smart and captivating opening sequence to its quick cuts between scenes, the film is a riveting attempt at some hardcore storytelling.
There’s never a dull moment with Hibat or Fereshteh, and coupled with its laugh-out-loud hilarious dialogue, it’s reasonable to deem All Three of Us an extremely accessible and entertaining piece of French cinema. The comedy is genuinely amusing and manages to achieve the rare feat of making a film depicting Iran under strenuous conditions a feel-good movie through and through.
It must be mentioned that the film boasts a brilliant soundtrack; Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis for example is used to glorious effect, underlying a particularly tough sequence of events for its characters.
As tough as it gets however, there’s comfort in seeing these characters fiercely pull through.
And the cherry on the very top? Hibat and Fereshteh are still alive somewhere in France. Their son has also made a smashingly good movie. All Three of Us opens in France on 4 November 2015.
The Daily Seni‘s coverage of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival was made possible by festival organisers as well as TIFFCOM 2015 and the Japan Foundation Asia Center. This year’s edition runs from 22 – 31 October in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, with events also happening across Shinjuku.