The White Balloon (Badkonake Sefid)

Director: Jafar Panahi
Screenwriters: Abbas Kiarostrami

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


It is March 21, the eve of the Iranian new year, and seven-year-old Razieh wants a goldfish as is the tradition. Not the ordinary kind from the pond in the center of the garden, but the enormous, magical kind she has seen swimming in the fishbowls at the pet store. With her older brother‘s help, she persuades her mother to give her a banknote to buy the fish, and so begins an adventure-filled journey across Teheran to the market.

The White Balloon is a simple tale, told and filmed from Razieh‘s point of view, filled with adults towering above and jostling about her, often menacingly. We feel her fears as she navigates this world of giants—the sudden, deep disappointment as the snake charmer snatches her bill away, and then the quickly soaring joy as he gives it back and she continues her quest. It is a quest that is eventually fulfilled, but only after many heartbreaking ups and downs which viewers, recalling their own childhoods, will share with excruciating pain and pleasure. After many misadventures and near disasters, Razieh succeeds in getting her goldfish, only to find that when viewed from above, without the optical magic of the bowl, it is no larger than an ordinary fish. An artful touch, a bit of philosophy, or a political comment wrapped in a child‘s tale?

— Nicole Guillemet

Screening Details

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