While I was at Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, the 8 ½ Foundation did a special event to advertise their aim to show world cinema for children and they showed audience the 1995 award winning film from director Jafar Panahi, The White Balloon, and I personally think it deserves to be seen and has a simple story that anyone can watch and enjoy.
The story is simply written to be ideal for any family audience and the film follows seven-year-old Razieh (Aida Mohammadkhani) as she desperately tries to plead with her mother to get a goldfish on the same day as the Iranian New Year.
Eventually managing to get some money to buy the goldfish, young Raziah sets off into the town in an attempt to buy her goldfish. However, along the way she bumps into a sneaky snake charmer who tries to take advantage of her money and then when she manages to escape and gets to the pet store, she loses her money along the way.
This when she meets numerous characters who try to help her find the money before the Iranian New Year celebrations begin. With these characters including an elderly woman, her older brother Ali (Mohsen Kafili) and a travelling soldier trying to help her, we see how her broken attempt at getting a goldfish is getting better with the people she encounters in the second half of the film.
Screenwriter Abbas Kiarostami obviously knows how to write films for families and to make the story universal enough to have an attraction for everyone, no matter what the barrier language is the simple, yet effective, screenplay shines.
First time director Jafar Panahi manages to add more towards the already lovely screenplay and I was not surprised to find out that the film and himself managed to win the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995.
What makes his direction work really well was how he used the camera and shot sizes in a really simple effect for the young audiences to focus on the characters, which is beautiful to watch the characters unfold and especially with the natural lighting that the film crew took great advantage of.
For example, in the scene where Raziah and the travelling soldier first meet each other, the cameraperson filmed the beginning of this scene with one shot and what makes this really work is the fact that when the characters talk the dialogue goes back and fourth and we are not introduced to the next cut until Raziah starts talking towards the other character.
Its these simple decisions that helps for the young audience members to understand the connection between the characters, while the older audience members would also appreciate that Panahi is trying to introduce children from around the world to Iranian cinema.
Considering the fact that the director was sent to prison for making this film, I highly recommend that you try and see this film as The White Balloon is beautiful, simple to follow and could possibly be one of the best family films I have ever seen.