No hard feelings

Artwork for No Hard Feelings (Faraz Shariat, 2020), Source: Dazed Digital, Artwork: David Uzochukwu 

Don’t worry! There are No Hard Feelings in Futur Drei!

By AZADEH M. KANGARANI

A six-year-old boy from the second generation of a German-Iranian family dances charmingly in a skirt and sings a love song as a family VHS recording plays. This opening scene of No Hard Feelings (or Futur Drei in German) is followed by a sequence with the same boy, now as an adult, as he listens to a voice message from his parents on his birthday. The protagonist of the film, Parvis, is then introduced. We see him alone and ready for adventure as he dances in a crowded nightclub in his hometown of Hannover in Germany. Parvis passionately kisses another man in the night club, and as the two gaze into the eyes of each other, Pavis is asked: “So, where are you from?”

First-time director Faraz Shariat smoothly sets the main quests of his semi-biographical film from the very beginning. Identity, gender, homosexuality, race, ethnicity, and immigrant status in German society are all brought into question. The inclusion of the director’s own VHS tapes which open the film connects beautifully with the main character of Parvis, who is played by Benjamin Radjaipour. Shariat’s personal touch demonstrates the powerful connection between his own childhood with the themes explored and characters created in his fictional films.

The plot begins as Parvis is sentenced to 120 hours of community service work at a refugee camp in Hannover after shoplifting. It is there that he befriends two refugees, a pair of Iranian siblings, and falls in love with the brother, Amon.

Still from No Hard Feelings (Faraz Shariat, 2020), Source: British Film Institute

The question of identity is raised multiple times throughout the film. Feelings of belonging and the lack of belonging present a duality of experience that Parvis and other second-generation immigrant families often go through. One scene that portrays this cultural tension occurs when Parvis has a one night stand with a German guy for the sake of having sex. As the two get down to business, the German guy makes explicit comments on the ethnicity, skin color, and surprising lack of body hair on Parvis. In response, Parvis admits: “No hard feelings, I’m not really into pretentious whities either.”

Shariat’s commentary goes beyond cultural conflict to explore intercultural conflict — conflict among Iranians. One scene that exemplifies this is when Amon’s sister, Banafsheh, goes on her first date in Germany with an Iranian man. The man carries a similar demeanor as some of the stereotypical dogmatist men who fail to ask for a women’s opinion even while ordering food at a restaurant. This is a cultural issue that can make Banafsheh suffer.

As the film progresses, cultural conflicts are dealt with in a light-hearted manner with humor. In one scene, Parvis is asked to serve as a translator between the camp’s medical committee and a sick woman who speaks an Azeri dialect. He does nothing but explains everything incorrectly since he does not understand Azeri.

Still from No Hard Feelings (Faraz Shariat, 2020), Source: British Film Institute

Shariat and Paulina Lorenz, the co-writer of the film, constructed the script seamlessly, concluding dialogues between characters naturally, and careful not to impose personal biases or cultural codes onto the audience. The only issue that affects the authenticity of a few characters is the strong German accent of actors playing the role of refugees in the camp, making their performances less believable. It is clear, however, that Shariat cares about his Farsi-speaking audience. He does so by including subtle references to make character conflicts more tangible. Amon and Parvis talk about Googosh, a legendary Iranian pop-singer, in their first conversation, and Amon offers Parvis salty sunflower seeds, a common snack among Iranians. Banasfeh asks Amon to kiss Parvis on his cheeks four times, a pervasive and friendly occurrence among Iranian men.

It took three years for the production team to finalize the three main actors, but the chemistry and layered love between them in the final product makes it all worth it. There is sibling love between Banafsheh and Amon, a family-like love between Banafsheh and Parvis, and a passionate romantic love between Parvis and Amon. While the film has a few hardcore sex scenes, sensuality is generally expressed very delicately throughout the film. Simon Vu’s cinematography captures intimate moments in an effortless yet expressive way.

In summary, Shariat’s first feature film stands out in the field of queer cinema for many reasons. He is able to delve deep into love, identity, homosexuality, race, and immigrant status while advancing a visually stunning and narratively engaging love story between two gay men in a somewhat foreign land. The film premiered at Berlinale in 2020 and won the Teddy Award for Best LGBTQ+ Feature Film.

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