HIT THE ROAD screened at the 65th annual San Francisco Film Festival. A quirky family embarks on a mysterious road trip to spirit their oldest son across the border to avoid an unnamed fate, but it certainly can’t be good. The majority of the film takes place in the car, and along the way we are treated to expansive landscapes, and little brother squirming and endlessly chattering, oblivious to the gravity of their mission. There’s the silent, brooding big brother, world weary dad wearing a full leg cast, and wistful mom attempting to keep the mood light by singing classic Iranian songs. And of course, the pet dog, who escapes doom several times.

Amongst the numerous adventures, often comedic, there’s an extended search for a sheep sheerer, something to do with paying off the smugglers.

It’s not necessary to understand the back story in Hit the Road. In contemporary Iran, many families of artists and intellectuals live under constant fear of surveillance by the government. In one scene the family is being tailed by another car. Immediately convinced they are being followed, it turns out a good citizen merely wanted to point out their car was leaking gas. Subtle. Rather than hit the viewer over the head with political issues, this film leaves itself open to interpretation. Says Panahi, “life and art are packed with paradoxes and they are richer if we are left to explore them individually”.

Concerning the pre-revolution songs in Hit the Road, Panahi states “the regime does not tolerate these songs and frowns upon their use: they were sung by artists who had to flee abroad after the revolution”. He detests the recent development of Iranian pop, and so chose these classics, not as a political statement, rather a nostalgia for the music of his youth. The melodies beautifully pair with the moving landscape seen from the family car. We are happily along for the ride.

more info: SFFILM.org