Just 6.5 (Metri Shesh-o Nim) (2019) kicks off with an uneasy persecution through chaotic Tehran, and appears to end in tragedy. Further in the film, however, we realise that the persecution does not end at the initial chase, but rather continues all throughout the movie and beyond. Just 6.5 is a constant game in which the cop is the cat and the drug dealer, the mouse. And it is exposing a pressing dynamic in contemporary Iran.
When asked about the origin of the film, its 31-year-old director, Saeed Roustayi, responded it was a personal worry about Iran, especially respecting the Iranian society, that led him to want to cover drug-related problems in the country. Since he had covered this topic during his university years in the form of documentaries, he explains in an interview with de Filmkrant, he was ready to try a different format. Moreover, Roustayi wanted to outline the inefficiencies in the Iranian system of drug-related crime punishment. One gram of cocaine will sentence you to one year of prison. Ten grams will be equivalent to ten years. Thirty grams will lead you to the same sentence as if you’d been busted with 50 kilos of illegal drugs with you. Such a policy results in a logic of extremes that are well depicted in the film.
I asked my mom if she wanted to join me to watch the movie. My mom can’t read subtitles too quick and angry cops talk very fast. I told her not to worry too much – it’s a police action film, dialogue isn’t that important. I was so wrong! The dialogues are impressive given how they manage to capture the humanity of every character embedded in such sordid scenarios. It is worth noting, the dialogues would obviously not have the strength they do, were they not accompanied by the equally impressive performances of the actors – especially Payman Maadi (as Samad, the cop), and Navid Mohammadzadeh (as Nasser, the drug dealer).
It was funny how, as the film progressed, my mom would mumble, resentfully; that drug dealer sonofabit… whereas I would take pity for him. The film isn’t propagandistic. It gives more than one perspective. It’s never black or white, it’s more nuanced than that. Choice isn’t obvious. Once the film was over, we discussed specifically about this, about the extent to which drug dealers have a choice per se to work in the drug industry. We always have a similar discussion about meritocracy: I tell her it’s a myth, she tells me she’s earned everything she has. Raised the daughter of a Chinese immigrant refugee father who arrived penniless to Argentina, and a mother migrating to Buenos Aires in the hopes of fleeing from the countryside’s lack of opportunity. I’m quite sure if we had to get real, we would both need to make some concessions respecting our ideological biases. Something that Roustayi might be inviting us to do.
Written by Martine Wu