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Review ‘The Persian Version’: a dazzling mother-daughter drama spanning decades, continents and cultures

Returning to Sundance, where her feature film debut is circumstance The Iranian-American writer-director Maryam Keshavarz, which premiered in 2011, enters the festival’s US Dramatic Competition with an audience-friendly quasi-autobiographical comedy-drama. The Persian version.

A multi-generational family story spanning approximately 60 years, two continents and different cultures, from traditional Muslim families to queer New Yorkers. funny explanatory graphics and tightly choreographed dance numbers to vintage American and Iranian pop songs. The extended ensemble is led by Layla Mohammadi who plays the director’s alter ego, Leila, and Niousha Noor as her immigrant mother Shirin, who, in the manner of classic melodrama, clash but eventually learn to respect each other after secrets are revealed. extended flashbacks are revealed.

The Persian version

It comes down to

Vibrant and fun for all the family.

Event location: Sundance Film Festival (American Dramatic Competition)
Form: Layla Mohammadi, Niousha Noor, Kamand Shafieisabet, Bella Warda, Chiara Stella, Bijan Daneshmand, Shervin Alenabi, Tom Byrne, Shervin Alenabi, Arty Froushan, Samuel Tehrani, Jerry Habibi, Reza Hamid, Andrew Malik, Parmida Vand, Ash Goldeh, Parsa Kaffash , Mia Foo
Director/screenwriter: Maryam Keshavarz

1 hour 47 minutes

The present tense of the film is set sometime in the early 2000s, the locus of Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan and Jersey City, where protagonist and sometime narrator Leila grew up with Shirin as a mother, doctor Ali Reza (Bijan Daneshmand) as a father and eight elderly brothers. That bunch of siblings get quick, miniature introductions, but it’s clear from the get-go that their function is to be sort of a babbling chorus of mildly bizarre guys.

Although she was an academic star in school, Leila, now in her twenties, pursues her goal of becoming a filmmaker. That single-minded focus on her career has already undone her brief marriage to Elena (Mia Foo), leaving Leila free to enjoy casual hookups. She gets on well with Maxmilian (Tom Byrne), an English actor in New York who plays the title role in Hedwig and the Wicked Inchafter a Halloween party where he was dressed in his travesty costume and she wore a skinny but revealing ‘burka-kini’.

But their tryst leads to an unexpected consequence, awkwardly bringing Max into the family around the same time everyone is anxiously waiting for Ali Reza to recover from a heart transplant. This health crisis brings the many brothers back home to stand guard at the hospital with Shirin, while Leila usually stays home to cook for her grandmother Mamanjoon (Bella Ward), a delightful biddy who loves to dance with her granddaughter and often her advises in flashbacks to have anal sex with men to keep her hymen for marriage. Mamanjoon’s casual mention of a family scandal involving Leila’s parents in Iran before they immigrated piques the young woman’s curiosity.

Gradually, the film’s focus shifts from Leila to Shirin, and we see vignettes explaining how she, once the mistress of multitasking, simultaneously earned a GED and a broker’s license to generate additional income. A natural wizard at business, Shirin excelled in sales and helped kick-start a Little India neighborhood in New Jersey thanks to her savvy dealings with immigrant clients. But it turns out she’s been haunted all along by a trauma from her past, which plays out in scenes of a teenaged Shirin (first time actor Kamand Shafiesabet, a real find), just 13 years old when she gets married. to Ali Reza (Shervin Alenabi) and moves to his village.

The film was shot in Turkey; Keshavarz explains in a statement from the director that she was forbidden to return to Iran after the last feature film she shot there. The scenes in Farsi, with their dance numbers and spicy humor, feel very different from the films by Iranian filmmakers we are used to seeing. While acknowledging the oppression of women within the culture, and the heavy burden of tradition (shooting for this film ended just before the Mahsa Amini protests against the hijab laws and moral police got under way), none of the sluggish, self-righteous ponderousness endemic in the work of well-known Iranian authors. Occasionally, Keshavarz lets the comedy get a little too broad – for example, in the final scene, where practically everyone in the film bursts into a hospital room at once – but even then, the film’s infectious, bubbly energy is hard to resist.

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