Along with her better-known compatriots Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is widely considered one of Iran's foremost directors, and an inspiration to an entire generation of Iranian women filmmakers. Given her reputation at home and abroad, it's surprising that none of her previous films have ever enjoyed a U.S. theatrical release....read more
Along with her better-known compatriots Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is widely considered one of Iran's foremost directors, and an inspiration to an entire generation of Iranian women filmmakers. Given her reputation at home and abroad, it's surprising that none of her previous films have ever enjoyed a U.S. theatrical release. While far from her best work, this accessible, emotionally involving domestic drama nevertheless serves as a welcome introduction. Set during the days preceding the 1997 parliamentary elections that usher in President Mohammed Khatami and the promise of reform and a stronger economic future, the story revolves around the efforts of Tuba Rahmat-Abadi (the extraordinary Golab Adineh) and her oldest son, Abbas (Mohammad Reza Foroutan), to keep their family together as Iran hurtles towards modernity. Abbas and his disabled father (Mohsen Ghazi Moradi) are pressuring Tuba, who works long hours at a Tehran textile factory and effectively runs the household, to sell their humble house to a developer. Abbas, who plans on escaping the dead-end of Tehran's low-wage jobs by working in Japan for a year, needs money to pay off his visa, but Tuba will hear none of it: She's having enough trouble keeping her family afloat without adding worry about the risks of moving. Her eldest daughter, Hamideh (Homeira Riazi), has just left her abusive husband; her youngest, Mahboubeh (Baran Kowsari), is distraught when her best friend, Masoumeh (Mahraveh Sharifi-Nia), runs away into a netherworld of prostitution and drugs after being savagely beaten by her drug-addicted brother. And Tuba's son, Ali (Ebraheem Sheibani), seems to be abandoning his university studies for political activism and has already been in trouble with the police. Unbeknownst to Tuba, Abbas and his father are already in secret negotiations with the builder, and plan on selling the house out from under her a desperate move that will have tragic consequences. Like many of Bani-Etemad's previous films, particularly her early documentaries, this polished, surprisingly slick drama exposes the human cost of Iran's rapid urbanization and capitalist expansion. With each long-shot we see the evidence of Tehran's changing landscape: the cranes and girders of new high-rises, the western-style pizza joints that cater to those who can afford to live out the promise of a better life. Close-ups, however, reveal the lives of those can't afford to share the optimism, working-class families like Tuba's who are invariably displaced in order to make way for the brighter, shinier future.
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