Mark Krotov at n+1:
PANAHI IS A FILMMAKER of exquisite efficiency, and the basic contours of No Bears are apparent from its first five minutes. Bakhtiar and Zara are in Turkey with the production, and Panahi himself—actually, let’s call him Jafar to avoid any suggestion of documentary; for all their ambiguous refractions of reality, Panahi’s films are carefully scripted—is directing a semi-documentary film based on their life remotely from a village in Iran, on the other side of the border. (Like Panahi, Jafar has been banned from leaving Iran, but he believes that relative proximity to his cast and crew is better than none at all.) As the film goes on, the particularities, intensities, and terrors of the village where Jafar is staying come into clear focus, while the film-within-a-film falls apart. If Kiarostami’s gorgeous rural compositions occasionally led critics to confuse him for someone working in a lyrical or pastoral mode, before the ban Panahi had always been too single-minded in his focus on the city to be anything other than a quintessentially urban filmmaker.