The Accordion Review
Genre: Neorealism

Year Released: 2010
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: Iran
Running Time: 8 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: G
Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: The White Balloon, August Rush, El Bola, The Bicycle Thief

Notes: N/A

Fun Facts:

-This is the last film that Jafar Panahi would make before he faced his house arrest and 20 year ban on films as documented on This Is Not a Film.

-The Accordion was a commissioned piece for the Art For the World non-profit organization.

-Jafar Panahi was a recipient of the Pudu Award at the Valdivia International Film Festival in Chile. That award is a lifetime achievement award for those wondering.

Another Jafar Panahi short for me to review? Alright, let’s do this.

I’ve certainly become enamored with several of his films and for his courage to tackle topics that make compelling stories despite the Iranian government’s disdain with his films. Viewing his filmography allowed me to think about the concept of making brave films and also how certain movies can become banned for petty reasons regardless of which country the film is from. What makes this interesting is that I’m going to review a short that didn’t get scrutinized to kingdom come by the government in his homeland.

The Accordion takes place on the streets of Tehran. Two child siblings, Kambiz and Khadijeh Bahrami are busy busking around town in what appears to be the poorer parts of Iran’s capital/largest city. Kambiz plays the accordion while his younger sister Khadijeh sings while drumming on a tabla. They both are playing their songs, but what they don’t realize is that they were within walking distance and earshot from a local mosque. Some passersby freak out as they find out about this musical sibling duo and vilify the kids because they aren’t allowed to play their music right next to a place of worship. The accordion is stolen from them as the crowd hounds them and they have to find it. That’s also saying nothing about Kambiz’s rage as he just happens to pick up a rock while on pursuit of this accordion thief.

The production of this film is as expected from Panahi’s naturalistic filming style and art direction. The streets of Tehran look lively with scores of people walking around and with the children wanting to play their music. It looks like there was a higher budget compared to his other shorts, but it doesn’t resort to any expensive filming tricks or making the film glossier. I will admit that I was reminded a tiny bit of The Bicycle Thief, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Interestingly enough, that movie had a huge impact on Jafar Panahi’s life where after he saw it, he claimed that this Italian film was the first movie in his life that “didn’t lie” to him. There are lots of warm colors which add to the vibrancy of the film without becoming distracting.

The Bahrami siblings had some good characters to them. Even though it’s implied that both of them are poor as they busk around, they didn’t act like they were having a pity party despite their presumed destitute situation. Kambiz, the accordionist definitely showed the most personality as he seemed content playing his beloved instrument, but becomes enraged to the point of wanting to kill someone when it’s stolen. It was if that accordion was a part of his body and that thievery was an unneeded amputation. Khadijeh, the drummer and younger sister was actually the calmer one in this situation. What I found to be interesting was that she was the voice of reason in this plot to calm her brother down while also wanting to get the accordion back to Kambiz. When they find out who stole the instrument, there was a believable plot twist around and it revolves around the actions of the siblings and the thief itself in a musical fashion.

The Accordion was a strong short film, but even that has it’s flaws. The ending while meaningful can be ambiguous with the fates of all three characters. I also wondered why the thief (who is an adult, by the way) would be willing to collaborate with the kids in music once he’s caught. Sure, he never comes off as a child predator, but the situation was still awkward. I also noticed that only one name was uttered in the film and that was Khadijeh’s. No one else’s name is mentioned until one watches the credits. I’m glad there were named characters unlike Offside or the other short film Untying the Knot, but I shouldn’t have to wait for the credits to get the names of every important character. There were also some subtitle issues as the songs weren’t subbed. I wanted to know what they were singing about, that’s all.

The Accordion is certainly another worthy film from Jafar Panahi’s catalogue. The plotting was great and there was a good message that wasn’t preachy in it’s presentation at all. The realistic filming certainly shines through in this short film. The music played was worth listening to and I liked how it was all on set instead of some overdubbed tracks. Some parts of the plot were a bit ambiguous and I wished the names of the characters were clearer instead of Kambiz calling out his younger sister’s name in passing just once. It’s still a great watch nonetheless.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you like Middle Eastern cinema
Subtract 2 points if you want more pizazz in your films

-Great neorealistic camerawork
-Important morals that are shown and not told in a non-preachy way
-Good acting despite the usage of non-professional actors


-Can be too ambiguous at parts
-There’s an awkward aspect of the ending
-Lack of recognizable character names until the credits

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: This is another one of Jafar Panahi’s tamer films. The biggest issues would be a fight almost breaking out when the Bahrami siblings are caught playing music near a mosque, but no one gets seriously hurt. Kambiz is strongly implied to want to kill the thief when he holds onto a rock.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

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