The Karun is Iran’s longest river. Two friends of mine set out to try to travel the length of the river from source to sea. Their film, Karun, was released this week following a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign. I was lucky to get a sneak preview from Leon and Tom, so thought I’d share some of my thoughts after watching the film.
The film is a mixture of expedition excitement, adventurous travel, and cultural exploration. It’s an unusual blend in the adventure film world. And Iran itself is “not exactly on the tourist trail”, as the opening sequence points out. I was initially drawn to the film by its ingredients of lovely landscapes, crap bicycles, and packrafts. To my mind that instantly suggests a good adventure!
Leon and Tom fit into the categories of hapless, curious and enthusiastic rather than the heroic, meticulous and handsome role that many expeditioners aspire towards. Their innocence and incompetence runs throughout the film – ill-equipped, unsure whether their chosen river will even have any water in it, and without particularly clear plans as to how they intend to make their way from the source of the river to the sea. Personally, I find all this a refreshing antidote to the infomercial vibe that many recent adventure films give off – slick, polished, and bland. One of my chief thoughts as I watched Karun was that this film is a perfect demonstration that absolutely anyone can get out into the wild and make great memories. Travel and adventure is something that anyone can do.
What makes Leon and Tom slightly different to “anyone” is that Tom’s wife was born in Iran and Tom has been learning Farsi for a couple of years. This is a great help as their journey unfolds. For, without wishing to spoil the tale, the adventure side of the story is continually hampered by the Iranian police. The more the police meddled, however, the better the film became. I loved seeing inside Iranian family homes and witnessing their bottomless kindness. “Iranians have a lot of time but no plans” was my favourite line of the film and neatly articulated the amusing differences between their relaxed mien, and the two British adventurers feeling the need to make a serious journey, from A to B. The Iranians we meet prefer to dance and sing and drink tea!
Karun is an enjoyable, self-deprecating, unusual adventure film. I would like to have seen more of the culture they encountered (there are no women in the entire film), but the filming difficulties caused by the police account for this small frustration. My over-riding feelings of watching Karun was that I’d love to visit Iran, that the film will encourage novice adventurers to be bolder with their dreams, and that the very best adventures are the ones where you hold lightly to your plans and allow yourself to be swept along by the unpredictable forces and events you encounter along the way.