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Iran 2001
Directed by
Majid Majidi
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Mike Esler
4 stars


Synopsis: On a building site in present-day Tehran, Lateef, a seventeen year old Iranian worker is irresistibly drawn to Baran, a young Afghani immigrant.

This languid stream-of-life film, set amidst a group of Iranian and Afghani construction workers, from writer/director Majid Majidi comes refreshingly unencumbered by post-production polish or Hollywood pretension. The fact that the print I saw was somewhat scratchy lent considerable weight to the impression that Baran is a work produced from the most basic ingredients, austerely forged in the kiln of worthy traits – forgiveness, love and charity – and lovingly shaped by sympathetic hands with a single underlying aim - the telling of a story. A compelling, well-told story is paramount to quality, satisfying cinema and Baran is an honest depiction of a simple, unrequited love story, honestly and simply told.

That it is set largely on a multi-storied building site where illegal Afghanis live in dread of government inspectors, where work and safety practices are medieval and the rendered brick walls are dangerously askew, suggests allegories of a country held back by class and race issues, shaky infrastructures and a deep vein of complacency. No doubt the symbolism is here, this is Persian cinema, yet the human story that is Baran overrides the need to probe beyond the imagery.

We get no impression that Majidi has bid his camera embrace evocative village scenes for the edification of patronizing western audiences. Instead we are led gently, often accompanied by a manifestation of a recurring water motif ("baran" is Farsi for "rain"), from the harsh environment of the work site to the town and marketplace where the emotions of the players are reflections, not only of the turmoil they live amongst every day, but also the feelings that overwhelm anyone, anywhere in the world, who has been smitten by love and desire and their many implications.

Confirmation of the film’s quality lies in its deft simplicity. We could easily have followed Lateef’s quest for Baran without the sub-titles, a claim not many films can make. The final scene where the lovers’ fate is played out is as fine a piece of film-making as any you could wish to experience. Baran is a tender love story lain gently across Tehran’s craggy stone roads and cold muddy streams.




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