Imprisoned Iranian Director Jafar Panahi’s ‘No Bears’ Acquired for U.S. by Sideshow, Janus Films

No Bears
Courtesy of JP Production, Venice Film Festival

Imprison Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears” has sold into North America, with Sideshow and Janus Films acquiring U.S. rights, and Films We Like buying the movie for Canada.

“No Bears,” which premiered earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival, portrays two parallel love stories. “In both, the lovers are troubled by hidden, inevitable obstacles, the force of superstition and the mechanics of power,” reads an official synopsis.

The film is written, produced, and directed by Panahi, and stars Panahi, Naser Hashemi, Vahid Mobaseri, Bakhtiar Panjei, Mina Kavani, Narjes Dalaram and Reza Heydari.

The pic won Venice’s Special Jury Prize before appearing as a Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival. It will next screen at this month’s New York Film Festival and at the BFI London Film Festival.

Panahi was recently ordered by Iranian authorities to serve out a six-year sentence that he was issued in 2010, after being arrested this year while protesting the Iranian government.

Panahi had previously been sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing movies, writing screenplays, or giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media. He has continued making films despite government attempts at censorship.

His recent feature films include “This Is Not a Film,” a Special Screening at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival; “Closed Curtain,” winner of the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival; “Taxi,” winner of the Golden Bear at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival; and “3 Faces,” best screenplay winner at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Sideshow and Janus Films are planning a best director Oscar campaign for Panahi. The film, which is being sold internationally by Celluloid Dreams, will receive a theatrical release.

Sideshow and Janus Films helped Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” — which premiered in Cannes in 2021 — to four Oscar nominations in total, including best picture, director and adapted screenplay. It was the first Japanese film ever nominated for best picture and grossed over $2.3 million in North America, while sweeping critics’ awards.

President of Celluloid Dreams, Hengameh Panahi, said: “I’ve been working with Jafar since his debut, ‘The White Balloon,’ which was the first significant North American release of an Iranian movie and the only film by Jafar to be released in his own country because of his subsequent refusal to comply with censorship requests.

“His life is entirely focused on filmmaking and he persists despite all obstacles and limitations,” continued Hengameh Panahi. “Cinema is his inspiration and filmmaking his life. I am extremely happy to have found such a good home for ‘No Bears,’ with distributors who care deeply and do such extraordinary work. The movie is a resoundingly humanist response to an inhumane situation.”

Sideshow’s Jonathan Sehring added: “Jafar Panahi is one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. He has made a series of astonishing narratives with extremely limited means and under great restrictions. His films are deeply entertaining political acts of resistance and ‘No Bears’ is his crowning masterpiece. We are incredibly excited to bring this film into the world and also make sure that it gets serious consideration from the Directors Branch of the Academy.”

The deal was negotiated by Celluloid Dreams on behalf of the filmmakers with Sideshow and Janus Films.