Very much in line with new Iranian cinema, “Don” is a near-documentary fiction feature that captures the nitty-gritty of society’s outcasts in with heart-felt empathy. Auds open to this school of filmmaking should identify with the plucky 9-year-old hero who battles adult bureaucracy to go to school and work without an ID card. Though stylistically pic covers pretty familiar territory, helmer Abolfazi Jalili (“Dance of Dust,” “Det Means Girl”) touches on some sensitive new themes like child labor, heroin addiction, prisons and suicide, offering a wider angle on the country than ever before.
Farhad (the appealing Farhad Bahremand) is the child of poor junkies. He works at odd jobs to support the family, but loses them quickly. Without an ID card (which his parents failed to obtain when he was born) he can’t enroll at school or legally hold a job. Before his wasted father is taken off to prison, he applies for Farhad’s ID card, but it never arrives. The lively boy is placed in a state dormitory, but he runs off and uses his wits to procure small jobs.
On the plus side, Jalili gives a searingly honest portrait of slum life and its consequences on kids without any kind of sentimentality. What becomes exasperating is the constant questioning of the boy by adults and even by the off-camera filmmaker, asking over and over why he has no ID, who his parents are, where he lives, whether he’s telling lies and so on until the viewer can stand no more.
Other vital pieces of information and characters, like a neighbor girl, are casually tossed out so quickly they risk slipping by, leaving auds to fill in missing puzzle pieces as best they can.
Nonetheless, the camera eye falls on some striking scenes, like the kids doing physical labor in a carpet factory. For the police, age doesn’t seem to count as long as they have an ID proving they’re Iranian.