The cross-country travels of a bogus Iranian banknote offer fascinating vignettes of cultural mores and interpersonal situations in “Iranian Spread.” With its travelogue structure and constantly changing cast of characters, evenly-paced pic is a satisfying change from regional work dealing with the adventures and/or challenges of children and should therefore do well at fests and gain currency in modest arthouse situations.
At an outdoor spice stall in northern Iran, a boy is given change for a purchase in the amount of 1,000 tomans (technically, $5.70). A pickpocket lifts the note, only to see it become the center of attention on his rural bus and the cause of a minor road accident. With only a momentary crisis of conscious, the thief buys pomegranates from a group of passing children and the note is eventually used by one of their extended migrant worker families to buy a backstreet abortion.
The note then snakes its way through more than a dozen hands, traveling to Tehran, Luristan in the west and Kish Island in the south before returning to the city and disappearing with a traditional Haji Farouz, or New Year’s clown, during the holiday celebration. Along the way are glimpses of leisure time, private homes, street scenes, a rural wedding and even a shopping mall, where a version of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” plays as two parties bicker over the bill.
Throughout the downbeat saga, helmer Kianoosh Ayyari seems less interested in how individuals are changed upon learning they’ve been swindled than in creating a kind of “we’re all in this together” mentality that makes plain the harsh economic conditions of the country. “We’ve been cheated, why shouldn’t we cheat?” someone explains, and in this context the sentiment seems practical. The cumulative effect is one of tattered dignity, with overt moralizing kept to a bare minimum.
Tech credits are facile, with slight grain of Dariush Ayyari’s exposures in perfect sync with nimble nature of story.