Zalava – TIFF21


Zalava – TIFF21

Investigating reports of demonic possessions in a remote village, a skeptical military officer finds his beliefs tested by an enigmatic exorcist.

Reports of demonic possession send a remote village into near-hysteria in . Masoud () is a Gendarmerie sergeant, who does not believe in the reports of demonic possession from the nearby gypsy village of Zalava, to the point where he confiscates the villagers' firearms, which indirectly leads to a tragic death. Relieved of his duties, Masoud decides to finish what he started when the reports of demonic possession continue. He arrives to find the local exorcist Amardan (), who supposedly was able to capture the demon in a jar and is promptly arrested by Masoud for fraud. However, when he learns that the town doctor, and object of his affection, Maliheh () might still be in danger from the demon, Masoud must choose what he believes in.

Zalava is a demonic-themed film by Iranian filmmaker Arsalan Amiri. Set in 1978, before the Iranian revolution, the film is set in the titular town of Zalava, where the most common reaction to apparent demonic possession is to shoot the possessed person. Believing this to be a bunch of needless superstition, Sergeant Masoud responds by confiscated the townfolks' firearms, right before a supposedly possessed woman falls to her death. The enigmatic local shaman Amardan seemingly has more success in ridding the village of demons, though Masoud ends up locking him up for being a charlatan. However, with the jar supposedly containing the demon sitting on his desk, Masoud starts to get curious.

Zalava is less a straightforward horror film and more a social commentary about group hysteria and how fear can destroy people. That said, the film does have a few creepy scenes, most of them involving a supposedly empty-looking pickle jar. While the film ultimately keeps any true demonic presence ambiguous, the real horror of Zalava comes from the fear of its townsfolk, who are much scarier than any supernatural presence.

Zalava is screening as part of Midnight Madness at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

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Trailer for Zalava – TIFF21

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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