District Terminal in set a dystopian version of Tehran, where pollution, as well as an unnamed virus, have rendered life an unrewarding struggle to survive. At the centre of the story is unaspiring writer Peyman, who divides his time between buying cigarettes so he can dismantle them and smoke heroin, Skype-ing his wife in the US – who he halfheartedly intends to join eventually – and revising the same pages of poetry.
“What’s with all the heroin?”, a publisher comments during a rare instance in which Peyman manages to get off his backside in order to try and do something about his lyric. At this point, the audience will likely ask themselves the same question. Addiction doesn’t have an on/off button, and especially without an incentive to get clean, it is in fact a tedious cycle to seek the high. Still, there are only so many shots of brown powder, spoons, tin foil and inhalation one can take within a period of 117 minutes.
Bardia Yadegari is both director and star of this bleak Encounters entry and experienced the protagonist’s helplessness against Iranian art censorship first-hand. While his feature scratches the surface of vital topics such as a government’s editorial control of the country’s creatives and Iran-US politics, as well as industrial pollution and greenwashing, none are explored in enough depth. As a result, District Terminal is treading water, as incapacitated as its main character.
There are individual sequences of impact: Peyman has a potted tree that he repeatedly waters with his own blood. As a potentially inverted image of this relationship between man and nature, we see Iran’s lush green forests violated and used as national dumpsites. Near the end of the film, a well-engineered crane shot illustrates the fundamental fear that human life is no less disposable than the material items that accumulate on these landfills, as Peyman’s friend is seen lying on top of it, wasting away.
District Terminal (Mantagheye payani) does not have a UK release date set.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.