A highlight of every new year is the Museum of Fine Arts’s Boston Festival of Films from Iran, which for many years has brought varied and compelling works by contemporary Iranian filmmakers to local audiences. Running Jan. 17-27, it opens with writer-director Vahid Jalilvand’s “No Date, No Signature,” an international award winner and Iran’s entry for best foreign language film for the 2019 Oscars. It’s a taut, neorealist tale of guilt and morality in the tradition of groundbreaking Iranian filmmakers Asghar Farhadi and the late Abbas Kiarostami.
“No Date, No Signature” opens with a car accident, as forensic pathologist Dr. Nariman (Amir Aghaee) injures an 8-year-old boy in a minor collision with a motorcycle driven by the child’s father (Navid Mohammadzadeh). Despite Nariman’s insistence, the boy’s father refuses to seek medical attention. Later, at the hospital where he works, Nariman learns that the boy has been brought in for an autopsy after a suspicious death. A fraught reckoning ensues as Nariman and the boy’s parents wrestle with anger, responsibility, and shame.
“No Date, No Signature” won the best director prize, Mohammadzadeh took best actor honors, at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.
Another notable film is Milad Alami’s debut feature, “The Charmer,” a timely drama/romance/thriller that deals with the plight of Iranian immigrants. Esmail (Ardalan Esmaili), an Iranian struggling to remain in Denmark, is on a desperate quest to find a Danish woman who’ll agree to live with him before his visa runs out. After a series of failed liaisons, Esmail meets Sara (Soho Rezanejad), a law student eager to escape her oppressive Iranian mother and her mother’s circle of aging Iranian expatriates. As their relationship deepens, Esmail finds himself in an increasingly complex entanglement.
This year’s festival presents new films from Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi, two of Iran’s leading filmmakers, who are barred by the Iranian government from making films. Rasoulof shot “A Man of Integrity” in secret in rural northern Iran while an as-yet unexecuted prison sentence hung over his head. Panahi’s “3 Faces” is the fourth movie he’s made in defiance of the government’s ban. The film won Panahi the best screenplay award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Go to mfa.org.
Not for kids only
The 16th annual Belmont World Film’s Family Festival: Where Stories Come Alive! bills itself as a children’s film festival but the event boasts an impressive lineup of international features, shorts, and live events that will appeal to all ages. It runs Jan. 18-21 at the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge, the Regent Theatre, in Arlington, and the Studio Cinema, in Belmont. The festival opens at the Regent with “Right in the Eye” (“En Plein Dans l’Oeil”), a collage of silent films by legendary early film pioneer Georges Méliès .
Also featured is the New England premiere of the acclaimed Brazilian animated film “Tito and the Birds,” one of 25 submissions for the 2019 Oscar in the animated film category. Directed by Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, and Gustavo Steinberg, the film uses oil paintings, digital drawings, and animation to tell a story about fear in contemporary society and how to overcome it.
Films based on well-regarded children’s books include “Rosie and Moussa” (Jan. 19, the Studio), based on the Belgian book of that title, by Michael De Cock and Judith Vanistendael; “Highway Rat,” an animated film from the popular book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and featuring the voices of British actors David Tennant and Rob Brydon; and “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver,” from Germany, based on the book by Michael Ende (“The Neverending Story”). Both screen Jan. 21, at the Brattle.
Go to belmontworldfilm.org.
Loren King can be reached at email@example.com.