Connect with us
Zalava
Image Courtesy of TIFF

Film

TIFF 2021: Zalava Wrestles With Tradition and Belief

Arsalan Amiri’s Zalava is a potent realization of the strife between skepticism and belief as a demon threatens an entire village.

Zalava Review

Skepticism meets belief in Arsalan Amiri’s hypnotic exploration of what happens when the two meet in a small, remote village. Zalava’s horror trappings build the foundations of a tense rivalry between order and chaos as a police officer questions the village of Zalava’s long-held customs and risks losing everyone to demonic possession. In the most cursed “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, Amiri finds a compelling commentary on the role that faith plays when faced with a life-threatening situation.

Set in 1978 Kurdistan, Zalava is a village far away from civilization. The villagers there have their own way of living life, not completely out of the ordinary, with the exception of one threat: demons. Believing there to be a demon in the village, they aim to capture and shoot the leg of the person who the demon resides in, effectively trapping them in that person’s body. It’s a ritual they’ve performed for many years and it seems to work, or at the very least, it calms the villagers down.

Zalava
Image Courtesy of TIFF

However, when Masoud (Navid Pourfaraj) takes away their firearms before they can trap the demon, he tarnishes the ritual. Subsequently forced to resign from his job for illegally taking away their guns, Masoud takes one last visit to the village on his final day to find an exorcism taking place. What follows is a glimpse into the hold that superstitions take in remote areas when those who are supposed to uphold the peace willingly let pain and suffering inside.

Masoud’s steadfast belief that there is no such thing as demons and that the village is being conned by an exorcist is never solid. Frequently Zalava prods at Masoud’s beliefs, manifesting his doubt in a pickle jar said to contain the demon. If he opens it, the demon comes out, but if he keeps it closed it’s impossible to prove the demon is real. The suspense that comes from a visibly empty pickle jar has never been more palpable, creating a Schrödinger’s cat paradox for Masoud.

Zalava
Image Courtesy of TIFF

The fact is that by the time Zalava wraps itself up, the conversation it has had about firmly established traditions being impossible to uproot is still not over. Amiri wisely keeps the debate open, making his horror film one much more real than if he were to fully realize the demon. It’s the potential of something unknown that is far scarier than something tangible. When the threat is unknown, modern beliefs can only go so far in the face of tried-and-true traditions. Zalava successfully taps into that fear and shows a group of people ready to halt a demon in its tracks and the sudden attack on their own beliefs causing complete mayhem.

The 46th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, taking place September 9–18, is tailored to fit the moment, with physical screenings and drive-ins, digital screenings, virtual red carpets, press conferences, and industry talks. Find all our coverage here.

Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Greatest Canadian Movies Greatest Canadian Movies

Made in Canada: The 80 Greatest Canadian Movies of All Time

Film

Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective

Queer As Folk – A Cultural Milestone

TV

John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective

Ambiguity Makes for Better Horror in 1982’s The Thing

Film

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One The Witch: Part 2. The Other One

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One is a Disappointing Genre Hybrid

Culture

Web of Make Believe review Web of Make Believe review

Netflix’s The Web of Make Believe Gets Off to a Scary Start 

TV

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive" Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive"

Stranger Things Scrapes the Bottom with “Chapter 6: The Dive”

TV

Ranking the 10 best Stranger Things characters Ranking the 10 best Stranger Things characters

10 Best Stranger Things Characters

TV

Stranger Things Catches Its Breath with “Chapter 5: The Nina Project”

TV

Stranger Things Screeches To a Halt with “Chapter 7: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”

TV

Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt

Jurassic World Dominion Misunderstands the Entire Franchise’s Allure

Film

The Making of Jaws – Steven Spielberg’s Masterpiece The Making of Jaws – Steven Spielberg’s Masterpiece

The Making of Jaws – Steven Spielberg’s Masterpiece

Film

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better? The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better?

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets— Which is Better?

TV

The Umbrella Academy Gets Emotional, Mysterious, and Slightly Too Large With Season 3

TV

Rutger Hauer Rutger Hauer

Blade Runner and the Particular Qualities that Noir Fans Can Appreciate

Friday Film Noir

Rise is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Inspiring but Disney-fied Origin Story 

Film

Queer as Folk 2022 Review Queer as Folk 2022 Review

Queer As Folk Perfectly Blends Tradition and Innovation

TV

Connect