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Baran

(Majid Majidi, Iran, 2001)


 


Director Majid Majidi (Children of Heaven [1997], The Colour of Paradise [1999]) is for many audiences the most acceptable, reassuring presence in contemporary Iranian cinema.

Lacking the more astringent, abrasive, modernist challenges of work by Abbas Kiarostami or Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majidi’s films combine a very pretty kind of aestheticisation with a sentimental portrayal of dispossessed peoples.

Baran, Majidi’s best film to date, takes place against a harsher backdrop than usual – the influx of Afghan refugees into Iran. As is his way, Majidi eschews overtly political explanations or polemics concerning the situation. Instead, he conjures a small, personal tale within the turbulence of this social world.

Lateef (Hossein Abedini) works on a construction site. He is, at the outset, instinctively hostile to the Afghans on the crew whose illegal status endangers everyone’s livelihood. Lateef’s attitude begins to change, however, when he sets eyes upon the very young Baran (Zahra Bahrimi) – who has hitherto been masquerading, not too successfully, as a male worker.

Most affecting in this story is the combination of a tender, tentative passion – as in many Iranian films, physical passion seems strictly off-limits as a subject – with a political awakening of conscience. Lateef’s compulsion to follow Baran and learn more of her situation unfolds to him, in a natural and poignant way, the Afghan plight.

No national cinema is better at endings and titles than Iran: and the two go together, since a poetic or enigmatic title is usually only explained in the closing moments. When we finally grasp the title’s secondary sense ("Rain"), the film’s political meaning and emotional effect are perfectly encapsulated.

© Adrian Martin June 2003


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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