The film has angered the Iranian regime to such an extent that director Saeed Roustayi has been sentenced to half a year in prison, an education course in good film ethics in the holy city of Qom, and limited creative freedom thereafter. The same punishment has been assigned to the film's producer Javad Noruzbeigi.
The charge: Conducting propaganda harmful to the state, having submitted the film to Cannes without permission – and having refused to edit the film as requested by the censors. The film has been banned in Iran since its Cannes premiere in May 2022, where it won the Film Critics Award.
Old Baba ('Father' - he is nameless in the film) has made five children, all grown up, and only one is not a failure, daughter Leila. His dream of being the feted and respected center of relatives and friends gets a boost when a distant branch of the family appoints a new patriarch.
He is chosen because he is willing to go into debt - and the children support him rather reluctantly. They have their own bulletproof plan: to open a family store in a disused toilet in a shopping mall. If they don't just have to score the cash on some kind of pyramid scheme?
'Leila's Brothers' has it all: setback, triumph, division and union. The five siblings end up in a centrifuge of need, collective debt, investment, cheating, celebration, downfall, new opportunities, a storm of emotions and suspicions. And yet they are a family in a way we are not used to in the West. A sense of social necessity prevails, as does an ensemble that throws sparks! (The Danish Film Institute)
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Saeed Poursamini (left) is absolutely formidable as the shabby head of the family, Esmail, in a scene where things briefly seem to go awry for his dreams of being respected in the local community.
Congratulations on the success of the film. Go straight to jail
'Leila's Brothers' caused a stir at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Both because the film established the mere 34-year-old Saeed Roustayi as another big Iranian director's name, and because Roustayi's third feature film bluntly exposes the fractured surfaces of an Iranian society hard pressed by sanctions.
In the film, the police are seen brutally beating up factory workers who have been so brazen as to demand some of the wages they have not been paid for a year. This kind of thing is not done with impunity in Iran. It comes with criticism. So when Saeed Roustayi returned home from Cannes with the critics' prize, he was greeted with a 6-month prison sentence.
I hope Roustayi isn't discouraged, because his movies are pretty terrific. The modern Iranian counterpart to the neorealist classic 'Rocco and his brothers' is not without humour, but the fact that some have called it an Iranian screwball comedy, I think is just funny enough.
'Leila's Brothers' is the story of a pressured family in Tehran, where the old father Esmail has made life miserable for his four half-baked sons. Most competent in the group of children is Leila, but she is a woman, so that doesn't really count. Not much succeeds for the brothers. Even trying to open a shop in a public toilet is dreaming too big. (Politiken, Culture, Film)