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Film Review: Deer (Gavazn, Hirsch)
by Marinell Haegelin

Hadi Babaiefar, Iran 2021

A bleak, winter landscape shrouds Khodadad’s motor scooter bearing his seriously ill youngest son home. Money and time are needed for his treatment, and Khodadad’s in short supply of both. His wife’s worried, and at night Ehsan’s scared laying awake in the dark staring at the ventilator covering his little brother’s face. Trailing after his father through the grayed snowscape to tend sheep and cut firewood, Ehsan hears about the deer that was shot, but then vanished. After that, an old Uncle tells the youngster a Persian heroic tale about the mythical Rostam accidentally killing his son, then of a wise man’s advice, and an old woman/death angel. And yes, answers Uncle, the death angel can be anything Ehsan, even a deer. That night when Dad takes Ehsan to the neighbors to sleepover, the little boy knows why; sneaking out he hurries home across the frigid landscape. Armed with dad’s ax and unwavering courage and determined to guard his brother Ehsan remains on the doorsill. Only as golden light rises over the cloud-hugged, snow-shrouded mountaintop does he slightly, tiredly relax his post.

Visually stunning, writer-director Hadi Babaiefar’s screenplay is based on adapting the Deli Dumrul text from "The Epic stories of Dede Korkut." Within this framework, life/death, courage, illness and survival, life’s normal everyday problems and resolutions are confronted in a non-threatening, transformative way. The added caveat is the 14-minute film was shown in a Mo&Friese 12+ program. Mahmoud Ghaffari’s editing is measured and consequential just as Amirhossein Khoshbin’s camerawork is fluid, flexible, and fluctuating. Zohreh Aliakbari’s sound design provides lush, natural orchestration. The epical DEER offers a gateway to discovery for adolescents whereby glimmers of light can be at the end of any tunnel when one acknowledges just as night follows day, so does life offer multitudes of possibilities.