EXCLUSIVE: The Kourosh Ahari-directed psychological thriller The Night has landed a license for theatrical release in Iran. This is a historic benchmark for the country’s filmmaking community as it is the first U.S.-produced film to receive a license for theatrical release in Iran since the revolution.
Iran’s strict guidelines about what can be released theatrically in the country and its impact on artistic expression has received backlash from Iranian filmmakers including Mohammad Rasoulof (There Is No Evil), Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) as well as Rakhshan Bani Etemad. The country’s guidelines also require films to obtain a permit on a script before going into production. The Night, which is a U.S. and Iran co-production, managed to receive this permit before the Trump Administration’s new Iran sanctions at the end of 2018.
Shot stateside, The Night marks Ahari’s feature directorial debut and stars Shahab Hosseini (Cannes 2016 Best Actor winner for The Salesman) and Niousha Jafarian (Here and Now) as an Iranian couple who find themselves locked inside an old hotel with their one-year-old daughter. While attempting to make the best of this creepy hotel, an outside force pushes them to share the secrets they’ve hidden from each other. How, and if, they check out depends on how carefully they question everything and anyone that comes across their path.
The Night made its world premiere at Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January and, like many films, its distribution was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As theaters begin to open in Iran, the film is looking to debut theatrically and overcome political relations between U.S. and Iran, the pandemic as well as Iran’s strict regulations from the Film Screening Licensing Council.
In addition to breaking barriers as the first U.S.-produced film to receive a license for theatrical release in Iran, the film employed a diverse cast and crew made up of predominantly Iranian immigrants who are legal citizens/green card holders, or US-born Iranian-Americans. All department heads leading the production, from production through post were also Iranian or of Iranian descent.
The Night also stars George Maguire, Michael Graham, Elester Latham, Armin Mehr, Golbarg Khavari, Ali Kousheshi, Lily V.K., Gia Mora and Amir Ali Hosseini, Shahab Hosseini’s son. The film is produced by Alex Bretow, Kourosh Ahari, Jeffrey Allard, Cheryl Staurulakis, Armin Amiri and Mohammad Dormanesh. Terry George serves as consulting producer and George Rush, Leo Staurulakis, Ryan Clarkson, David Spisak, Chris Johns, Derek Benham, Robert Spears, Charles Freiberg and P.K. Patel are executive producers. The Night, which currently does not have distribution outside of Iran, comes from Mammoth Pictures in association with 7Skies Entertainment, Indie Entertainment, Orama Filmworks, Leveller Media and Supernova8 Films.
Watch the trailer below.