TIFF 2021: “Zalava”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The outcome of being superstitious can vary, but one can bring harm to other people due to their unproven beliefs. Sadly, the same superstition occurs in so many parts of the world, with people doing crazy things calling them justified.

Set in Kurdistan, in the small village of Zalava, villagers live in a constant fear that the village is being cursed, therefore, perform dangerous rituals by resorting to bloodletting those who they believe is possessed by a demon. In certain cases, the process turns deadly. When Gendarmerie Sergeant Masoud (Navid Pourfaraj) confiscates rifles from uncontrolled villagers, it causes death to a young woman. When Amardan, a local exorcist claims he captured a demon and put it into a jar, the sergeant confiscates the jar too, arresting the man. But when the news breaks that the jar was replaced and put into doctor Maliehe’s bag, things turn awry from that moment.

Faith is one of the main concepts touched upon in this Iranian horror film that mostly exercises social commentary as it questions the consequences of beliefs set in a very dark tone. Script co-written with Ida Panahandeh and Tahmineh Bahram, Arsalan Amiri delivers the very definition of paranoia, scepticism and pragmatism. We know what to expect from stories like this. Yet we are fascinated by its stunning narrative, and the danger townsfolk can bring if they continue believing in things that may or may not exist.

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