Badkonake Sefid “The White Balloon” بادکنک سفيد


Title: Badkonake Sefid “The White Balloon” بادکنک سفيد

Subject: A child’s adventure in going to the store to purchase goldfish. Drama; Family

Year: 1995

Produced Ferdos Film Company

Distributed By: OctoberFilms

Format: DVD, Persian with English subtitles

Reviewed by: Malcolm L. Rigsby. Malcolm L. Rigsby is a faculty member in sociology at Ouachita Baptist University, completing his Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas. In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology. He holds his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas.

Running Time: 85 minutes

Color/B&W: Color

Rating: Highly Recommended. 9 points out of 10.

Directed by: Jafar Panahi, with screenplay by Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Aida Mohammadkhani, Mohsen Kafili, and Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy

Audience Level: Jr. High through College and General Adult.
• Awards: Prix de la Camera d’Or, 1995 Cannes Film Festival
• Gold Award, Tokyo International Film Festival, 1995
• Best International Film, Sudbury Cinéfest, 1995
• International Jury Award, São Paulo International Film Festival, 1995

This film helps us understand that people around the world are not so different from each other. This is a wonderful film by Jafar Panahi, which encourages us to think about, perhaps for the first time, the perspective of a child who must deal continually with other children and adults. Perhaps one of the best family films I have seen lately. It is sure to touch the life of each viewer who seeks to relive the rigours, enthusiasm, and pleasures of childhood.

The setting for this film is Teheran, Iran on the eve of the New Year. With festivities anticipated and still much last-minute preparation to attend to, Rezieh’s family rushes about. Rezieh, (played by Aida Mohammadkhani) while on a shopping trip with her mother has seen some new goldfish in a store window and has emphatically concluded that not all goldfish are equal. As is often central to the Iranian courtyard, Rezieh notes that, their reflection pool is somewhat too common since their goldfish are skinny and only have two fins. Unlike the shop window goldfish that are fat and have four fins that make them jump about, she wants to grace the new year center piece and the courtyard pool with these new goldfish. However, in the complex setting of a child’s life, she realizes there are only 3 of these goldfish left at the shop and being the eve of the New Year there is little time to buy them before the store closes or someone else buys them. Hence, the plot of the film is to secure the goldfish and bring them home.

Rezieh pesters her mother for the 100 tomans price per fish and dickers with her older brother to buy one for her. Finally, her mother wears down from the pleading, and hands her the only money she has left (which has been saved for the festivities), a 500 tomans note. The condition is to purchase one fish and return promptly with the change. From this point on, the challenges that face a small child in an adult world flourish. The money becomes lost in a storm drain. The grate that covers the drain creates a barrier that takes the money just out of reach.  Everyone’s attempt at retrieving it fails. With the new year approaching she and her brother realize they have a serious dilemma that jeopardizes their timely return home.  There are questions about the money, the goldfish, and how to explain the loss of the money to their parents.

From this point in the film many players create new complexities for the children. Finally a youth selling balloons comes along. You will have to see the film in order to find out what happens. 

In viewing this film, consider the roles of the father whom we never see (but clearly realize his presence) and the mother. Think about the siblings, their rivalries and mutual support efforts. Reflect upon your own life and the life of your children and if you have them, your grandchildren.

This is truly a wonderful film for all ages. Excellent photography, sound, and editing. For further information and how to obtain or view the film visit at


About Malcolm L. Rigsby

Malcolm L. Rigsby, Ph.D., J.D. is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, Human Services and Criminal Justice at Henderson State University, Arkansas. He received his Ph.D. in sociology, at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas. In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology. He holds his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas. He is active in the independent review of documentary film as well as a free lance reviewer for Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO) hosted by the libraries at the University of Buffalo. He is active in research of prisoner identity and transformation toward pro-sociality and desistance from crime.
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