Critical Zone

Iran | 2023 | 99 min. | Ali Ahmadzadeh

With only the voice of his GPS to guide him, Amir drives through the underbelly of Tehran delivering hashish to his clients and friends. Winner of the 2023 Locarno International Film Festival Golden Leopard Award.

Actor Shirin Abedinirad scheduled to attend.

“[G]utsy, tantalizing [...] Ahmadzadeh’s movie stands apart in both style and substance.” —Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

Amir is a drug dealer in Tehran. Over the course of one long night, with only the GPS to guide him, he navigates the city’s underworld, meeting friends and clients. He visits an erstwhile girlfriend performing dance for children, a friend traveling abroad hoping to make it to the U.S., and a flight attendant/drug courier returning to Iran for a short layover. He delivers homemade hash muffins to a hospice where he and the nurse administer them like medicine. He hands out free bags of hash to a group of devoted sex workers. And he helps a conservative mother who’s trying to save her drug-addicted son. “First I trust in you, then in God,” she tells him. Indeed, Amir is a kind of modern messiah: benevolent, compassionate, providing people with a means of escape, that is also a means of resistance, and, in one unforgettable scene, an incitement to feminist revolution. Because of its transgressive subject matter, Critical Zone was shot without a permit, using hidden cameras and non-professional actors. As a result, the director was prevented by the Iranian government from attending the Locarno Film Festival for the film’s premiere, where it won the festival’s top prize, with the jury describing it as “a 99-minute scream in the name of rebellion and freedom.”

—Justine Barda

  • Original Language Title: Mantagheye BohraniI
  • Director: Ali Ahmadzadeh
  • Principal Cast: Amir Pousti, Shirin Abedinirad, Maryam Sadeghiyan, Alireza Keymanesh, Saghar Saharkhiz, Mina Hasanlou, Alireza Rastjou, Saba Bagheri, Maman Pari, Mr. Fred
  • Country: Iran, Germany
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 99 min.
  • Producer: Ali Ahmadzadeh, Sina Ataeian Dena
  • Screenplay: Ali Ahmadzadeh
  • Cinematographers: Abbas Rahimi
  • Editors: Ali Ahmadzadeh
  • Music: Hasan Mahdavi
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Locarno International Film Festival 2023 (Best Film), Batumi International Art-House Film Festival 2023 (International Feature Films Competition: Best Film), Haifa International Film Festival 2023 (Carmel International Competition: Best Film), 3 Continents Festival 2023 (International Competition: Young Jury Award), Belgrade Auteur Film Festival 2023 (International Competition: Grand Prix Aleksandar Saša Petrović)
  • Filmography: Atomic Heart Mother (2015), Kami’s Party (2013)
  • Language: Farsi (Persian)
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: Luxbox