- Golden Globe Awards
The Night (Iran/USA)
Shot on location in Los Angeles, The Night went into production in 2018, at the onset of American President Donald Trump’s imposed sanctions against Iran – a fact that gave the project extra meaning for cast and crew, the latter of which included department heads comprised exclusively of Iranians and Iranian Americans. There was also excitement and interest in being able to dabble in the psychological horror genre, a fertile cinematic territory which has seen some of its most rich explorations of the past couple decades come from filmmakers of color – like M. Night Shyamalan, James Wan, Jordan Peele, and Ana Lily Amirpour.
Anchoring director Kourosh Ahari’s international co-production and feature debut is Shahab Hosseini, an award-winning actor best known for his collaborations with filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. Unfolding in a blend of Farsi and English, the movie’s story focuses on Babak and Neda (Niousha Jafarian), a married couple who, tipsy and tired while returning home from an evening at the home of friends, make the decision to spend the evening in a hotel with their one-year-old daughter. Their car’s GPS routes them to Hotel Normandie, a 1926-built landmark nestled between Koreatown and the city’s Wilshire District, and upon check-in the duo finds themselves grappling with time-loop oddities, strange noises, a creepy black cat, and other apparitions. But are these demons real, imagined manifestations of unresolved interpersonal and relationship issues, or some metaphysical combination of the two?
Comparisons to The Shining are inevitable for any movie which tackles unraveling sanity in the confines of a hotel from which its guests cannot escape, but The Night is very much a legitimate two-hander – having Neda at first question Babak’s mental state, but then bringing her along and into the fold as very much a shared victim of these increasingly unnerving occurrences, suffering some of the same confusion and consequences. This approach invites audience emotional buy-in across gender lines. Multi-hyphenate Ahari, also editing the movie and taking a co-writing credit alongside Milad Jarmooz, crafts an elegantly imagined puzzle box of domestic disquiet that provides a wonderful showcase for the talents of Hosseini and Jafarian.
After premiering at a number of festivals specializing in horror and fantasy, including the Sitges and Nightstream Film Festivals, The Night also stands poised to make history –becoming the first American-produced or co-produced film to receive a license for commercial exhibition in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.