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Iranian director Mani Haghighi is Golden Bear contender with 'Pig'

Still from the film Khook (Pig) starring Hasan Majuni directed by Mani Haghighi Golden Bear Competition 2018 Courtesy of Berlinale Film Festival 2018

'Pig' is a satirical and surreal film, whacky and sometimes absurd, where dreams and nightmares are real. Inside this wrapping, Mani Haghighi lunges noticeably at the dictatorship of public relations, and at the manipulative capability of social networks.

The plot features Hasan (Hasan Majuni) as a movie-maker in Iran who has been banned from making films for two years. His favourite actress, Shiva (Leila Hatami), to whom he is very attached, decides to work with the pretentious Sohrab (Ali Mussafa).

This adds to his misery, he is condemned to try to fulfill his artistic passion by making absurd TV ads for cockroach pesticide, and from which he escapes by playhiung tennis with his pal Humayun (Siamak Ansari).

The ads give director Mani Haghighi scope to indulge his palette, and in a party scene in a palace, to create costumes that the Ziegfield Follies, Fellini or Jean-Paul Gautier could have inspired.

Hasan has another deep grievance with the world. He feels he is not important enough to be the victim of a serial killer who is targetting film directors. Several of his friends (one even called Mani Haghighi ) have been murdered and hav had the word 'Khook' meaning, pig, carved into their foreheads. He feels left out.

Corpulent, hairy Hasan becomes a baby in the arms of his rifle-touting, Turkish-speaking mother's apron strings. Mina Jafarzadeh's character draws the biggest laughs, at one point consoling him by saying, "the killer will definitely come for you... he's saving the best for last."

Haghighi said he was happy that the jokes worked well in translation.

"At the première at the Berlinale Palast on Wednesday night, people were laughing at the moments when I hoped they would laugh. I felt at least the jokes are making their way to a new culture. Oddly enough I have to go back and present this film to Iranians and see what they think, as it hasn't screened in Iran yet," he said.

The title raised eyebrows at the censor board said Haghighi, but he remained firm considering that, "there was nothing wrong with the title, we're not eating it!"

Khook or 'Pig' leaves many questions hanging in the air after the humour has drifted away. Haghighi said, "I'm trying to show that these characters are living in a state of panic. They're afraid, desperate and worried. People take bad decisions when they are in that fragile state."

The strong women characters in the film are there to help save him.