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I saw this film at a sneak last week. This is a film by Majidi Majidi the amazing Iranian director who's last film was "The Color of Paradise." At its center "Baran" is a love story that is about that most romantic of loves - the unrequited kind. What makes the film so timely is that in involves an Iranian who is in love with an Afghanistan illegal immigrant. The performers are non-pros and the effect this has upon the viewer is close to documentary in nature. We become involved in the Afghan culture in a very real and immediate way.
Something must be there in the air of Iran! How can they repeatedly
make such good films? What is it about this country's
landscape/culture/socio-economic circumstances that is so unique, that
seems like it cannot be replicated anywhere else... I've watched many
Iranian films over the years and each one of them has been a cinematic
treat. Iranian filmmakers have truly raised the bar of cinema. If films
are about capturing a slice of human life, presenting it as justly as
possible and thereby helping us understand ourselves better, than I
think Iranian filmmakers have done just that...over and over again!
'Baran' is again a gem of a film - basically a love story which beautifully talks about the prevailing socio-cultural dynamics in Iran at the time. Hossein Abedini as Lateef is excellent - your typical lovable rogue who has an insatiable propensity for mischief but is basically good at heart! Mohammad Amir Naji as Memar is absolutely endearing! You cannot help but be touched by this man's kindness and his subtle paternal attitude towards Lateef. Mohammad Amir Naji was also there in 'Children of Heaven' and even in that he was so amazing! He must be major actor in Iran or at least I hope he is! And Zahra Bahrami as Baran - a very controlled beautiful performance.
The "still sad music of humanity" reverberates in Iranian cinema all the time except that it is also complimented with refreshing doses of humour and joy revolving everyday situations and actions. Watch 'Baran' for another example of good cinema from Iran! Thankfully there's plenty of it there and plenty for us to see, enjoy and may be even learn...
Majidi's 'Baran' is cinema at its purest. There is no background music. No prominent special effect. The female lead does not speak a word. It's filmed in the simplest way. It's not a colourful film and yet it is so stunning to look at because the raw Iranian landscape is beautifully captured. Majidi's films have always been subtle. He depicts the hardship of Afghan refugees in Iran very well especially the struggle between both the Iranians and the Afghans and the consequences. The story revolves around Lateef and the title character Baran. Initially Lateef loathes her but as his attraction towards Baran grows stronger, he is drawn towards her. Their love story is beautifully displayed as pure and innocent. Not a word is exchanged between Lateef and Baran and this simply shows that love need not be explained with words or even touch but with action and Lateef's sacrifice proves the depth of his love. Majidi also adds a touch of humour that adds to the genuine charm of the film. He makes some astonishingly clever use of symbolism such as the last scene when Lateef looks back at Baran's footprint (after she has departed), it represents the print she left on his heart. Hossein Abedini is fantastic as Lateef. His sublime transformation from the brattish, selfish and vindictive boy to the passionate, kind and selfless lover is phenomenal. Moreover the fact that a newcomer played the part makes it more incredible. The young and stunning Zahra Bahrami is equally amazing. The actress does not get one line to say yet her non-verbal acting is stupendous. The supporting cast, though most of them include non-professionals, look authentic. To me 'Baran' was truly a unique and enlightening experience. Films like this are a rare 'breed'. They are not easy to find.
How rich can a poor fellow be?
How generous can a broke person be?
How integrity can complete the emptiness of a lonely heart?
How vivid the difference between lust and love can be?
At this age of cinema, when the light of morality is being covered with
shroud of hollywood products, BARAN (meaning rain in Farsi) conveys a
nourishing picture giving hope to the humanity.
At this age of cinema, when the lack of tangible stories forces hollywood
rescue its empire with special effects and obscene enticements, here comes
another third world country master piece of art.
It is not bulky classic novels but little short stories of literature
which remains in your memory long-lasting once you finished it.
Majidi's films are like simple beautiful piece of art, it's same as
reading Oscar Wilde or O Henry's classic short stories. He knows very
well where to mark underline & where to put ellipsis in a film. Set in
Iran, it tells the story of an afghani refugee working father whose leg
injury threatens his family's future. A child of his starts working on
behalf of his father at construction site. A young co-worker named
Lateef's burning hate towards child transformed by a surprising
discovery that a child is a young woman in disguise. For the first time
in his life, he's in love. He keeps the secret to his heart & helps her
with utter unconditional devotion that will change the whole dynamics
of his life.
Well it's more difficult to make a simple artistic film than making a complex piece of art & its Simplicity & portrayal of natural emotions in his films which is striking the right chords. Silence of the girl is the most felt part of the film. And what a poetic end- the last foot print impression of the girl in his life, that even rain can't wash it away.
A beautiful piece of art.
Do I have to say Must Watch? Ratings-9.5/10
Rarely do we see a natural masterpiece reminiscent of the great Italian neorealist directors. Many people will sadly miss this film simply because it doesn't have the marketing or star power of a Hollywood film. The Iranian Majid Majidi directs his film with a natural, neorealist flair without effects or a big budget. His story of forbidden love is classic; the principal characters Lateef and Baran start off awkwardly since Baran dressed as a boy Rahmat in disguise takes Lateef's job at a construction site in Iran. Lateef is an argumentative trouble-maker who becomes jealous and treats Rahmat badly until he realizes, Rahmat is a girl, Baran. He becomes embarrassed and goes about mending his ways. Baran is obviously put off and confused by Lateef's oafishness and cruelty towards her. But at the end, after when they picked up the fruits and when she stumbles into the mud he replaces her shoe, she could not take her eyes off him. The construction foreman Memar played by Mohammad Amir Naji is a brilliant actor, full of character and charisma. Zahra Bahrami who plays Baran-Rahmat never says a word but her facial expressions and pain in doing manual labor is brilliant. In a way she reminds me of the silent characters in the Korean off-beat film, 3-Iron or Bin-jip. Hossein Abedini, who plays Lateef is not a great actor although he has good moments. But aside from him, the movie was quite masterful. Most reviews discuss the touching story and today's cultural taboos in central Asia or the artful direction of Majidi. But I would like to add that the film's most beautiful moments are the directors and cinematographer's collaboration of capturing absolutely stunning moments much like you'd expect from the best of National Geogaphic's or Life's (old magazine) best photographers. The simply-hung curtains in the doorways swaying in the wind was a brlliant cliché of passing time. Lateef's hat (with Baran's hairpin) which he placed by the fish pond was stunning. The timing of both scenes in its lengthy pause, so simple, was brilliant. Near the end, the criss-crossing of the hands in picking up fruits is a symbol of the affection he feels for her. Following that was the simply brilliant slow motion of Baran flipping her aquagreen burka headdress back into place, signifying her unavailability. It seemed so cruel but culturally inevitable. The poverty of the characters and richness of the film contradict but capture the essence of humanity at its deepest. I love this film and I rate a 9.5 (not a 10 which appears here) of 10 only because Hossein Abedini could have been a stronger lead.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A young man, Lateef, may be 18 years old falls in love with a fellow
construction site worker Baran. Circumstances are victimizing,
conditions are odd. There's no way Lateef can win her hand but its a
complete triumph of love.
What a brilliant film. I am not into love stories but this film is definitely a love story par excellence. Plot is so brilliant and is executed with such finesse. The passion in the heart of the protagonist is just unbelievable and is a treat to watch. Majidi is such a fantastic director. All the obstacles and difficulties Lateef faces are social and political problems. Story looks like a love story but Majidi actually talks about women problems, refugees, illegal workers, immigration problems and of course conflict of right and wrong defined in a society. There are so many things Lateef does for Baran which I ended up thinking 'not possible' but the real question is 'isnt love selfless?'. 'Baran' is a film which haunts a thinking brain. A film which doesn't answer questions but ask questions. The construction site where Lateef works is in Northern Tehran. Mehar employs Afghanis to work with Turks and Iranians (thanks Howard Schumann ). There are actually so many things going on in this film.
Hossein Abedini as Lateef is fantastic. He is Lateef and nobody else can be Lateef. Zahra Bahrami doesn't have dialogs but she is very good. Mohammad Amir Naji is a fantastic actor. If he is on the screen then you just look at him and rest is 'backdrop'. One of the few complete actors in my dictionary of actors. My favorite scene is when Lateef comes to know about the fact that Baran is a girl and so hear wears some trendy clothes and come to brick laying. Memar looks at him and say "why are you dressed like a pop star?". I laughed so much. I use this phrase very often. Two thumbs up. I think the whole Indian film industry with 200 films on love is a dwarf in front of this divine story about love and selflessness. A must watch. 10/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Majid Majidi has made some amazing films, though sadly few in the West
have probably seen them since he hails from a land not especially known
for its film industry, Iran. In fact, finding DVDs of his and other
Iranian films is pretty difficult. I don't think this is especially
because of political tensions between Iran and the US, but more of a
general ignorance in my country that there even IS a foreign film
industry aside from perhaps the French and Japanese. It's a shame
really, as the three Majidi films I've seen (CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, THE
COLOR OF PARADISE and this film) are among the most visually stunning
and beautifully made films I have seen. His films are almost like
visual poetry and they concern ordinary people--not the famous or
especially beautiful--and this is what endears his films to many
people. While I was not blown away by the film like I was by THE COLOR
OF PARADISE (which, I would place in the top 10 best international
films I have ever seen), the look and delicate directorial touch make
this a wonderful film to see.
The film is set mostly on an Iranian construction site. Many of the workers are Afghans who have left their country due to the war. However, they don't have identity papers and can't legally work in Iran, so the foreman employs them "under the table" so to speak. But this isn't necessarily out of charity--it's just that he can pay them a fraction of an Iranian worker (much like many of the illegals in the US from Mexico). In fact, this foreman is an odd man--at times, he seems very stingy and cruel but at others you are surprised by his compassion. This didn't come as a surprise to me, as in other Majidi films I have noticed that the characters are often complex and hard to predict. The certainly are NOT formulaic or dull, but rich in goodness as well as character defects. In fact, the entire film later rests on this duality--but more of that in a bit.
One day, one of the Afghan workers is badly injured on the job. And, since they work illegally, the man cannot work and his family will starve. However, a ruse is created in order to have his daughter employed by the construction site. She dresses as a man and is a "lumper"--a term used to describe an unskilled construction worker who does the work no one else wants to do. But, since she is a woman, lifting and doing this hard work is beyond her means. But, when the foreman feels sorry for her and switches her to an easier job, the man who had this easier job as a gofer is mad--so mad he decides to make life tough for this new "man" on the job! Oddly, however, after being so cruel and thoughtless, later the angry worker discovers that she is a female!! Now you'd think he'd tell the boss and get her fired...right?! But instead, compassion and goodness comes from within and he has a strong urge to help her in her plight. But, when soon after this ALL the Afghan workers are fired, what is this man to do? How can he help her when she and her family have seemingly disappeared?
Overall, it's a very complex character study of a man who behaves inexplicably once he learns the woman's secret. Now I am NOT saying he reacts in a way that is impossible to believe...but it's just hard to imagine until you see that the man has hidden goodness and strength within him. Oddly, however, I just couldn't predict where this film would go and when the movie ended, I found myself a bit confused--not in a bad way, but I just wouldn't have imagined ending the film this way. It's a wonderful film--nearly earning a 9, but I am hesitant to give such high ratings. Plus, the other two films I mentioned that Majidi also made are clearly better films--mostly because they tug at your heart even more and feature some amazing performances by kids (something that is NOT easy to create). Well worth seeing.
By the way, this film was entered by Iran for the Oscars but was not nominated. This lack of a nomination is a bit of a surprise--perhaps it was just a very strong year in that category.
This romance tale, shot in contemporary Teheran, is a simple one of a
young Afghani, Latif, illegally working as a bread and pasta
deliveryman and tea boy for construction workers on a site in a Tehran
outer suburb. The workers are mostly illegal Afghani immigrants like
himself. The government inspectors frequently raid the site and the
Afghani workers scamper safely away in time, each time. This suggests
that the rather seedy Iranian supervisor or boss man bribes the
inspectors (though there is no actual shot of him doing so).
The supervisor is almost always short of cash to pay the workers (Latif is owed one year's salary but is given bits of cash by the boss if he demands it). The civil engineer is not pleased with the shoddy work done and refuses to pay him until he fixes the problems.
Nevertheless, it is revealed later that the supervisor has a heart of sorts. In the meantime the hero Latif, a romantic if quarrelsome lad lose his soft tea boy and deliveryman job in favour of a young and physically weak stand-in Afghani worker who has arrived to cover for a close relative who has a had a bad accident on the site and is disabled for several months. The weak stand-in cannot manage the heavy work so is given Latif's job and the hero has to take on the hard jobs which causes some resentment. The rest of the film is taken up with Latif falling in love with a beautiful but shy young Afghani girl (I'm not telling how this happens nor the secret which is revealed during the process). The photography is brilliant, and we get some fleeting glimpses of the better-off areas of Tehran but most of the time we see the sordid living and working conditions of immigrants at the bottom of the pile, although one country village has a certain unusual charm.. Indeed, some of the scenes, shot exclusively in late autumn or winter are almost lyrical.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BARAN centers around 17-year-old Latif (Hossein Abedini), the cook and gofer at a Teheran construction site. He's initially angered when he is replaced by Rahman (Zahra Bahrami), the son of an injured Afghani co-worker, until he discovers that his colleague's son is actually his daughter in disguise. Most of the workers at the site are illegal immigrants from Afghanistan (Afghan refugees are legally blocked from entering the Iranian job market), and are in continual jeopardy of losing their jobs in the event of a sudden illness or a sudden visit from government building inspectors. Latif has discovered Rahman's true identity by the time the inevitable moment of crisis arrives, and surrenders to an unrequited crush on Baran, propelling him towards a selflessness which at first seems surprising, as Latif is seen as hot tempered and a bit selfish at the beginning of BARAN.
Latif's eye-opening introduction to the desperate conditions in which she lives definitely makes this transformation more plausible. The ever-present subtext - the state of life in Taliban-era Afghanistan, the exodus of the Afghan work force from the country, and the plight of Afghan refugees abroad gives the romantic side of the story urgency, and perhaps makes the rather unreal Latif seem considerably more realistic, or even politically daring. The camera work throughout BARAN is also exceptional - the construction site is captured in great detail through the graceful and uncluttered cinematography (by Mohammad Davudi), the harshness of Teheran's environment (this film features some of the most effective use of rain, snow and fog this side of a Kurosawa epic) is casually ever-present, and serves to underscore the intensity of the story, and the scenes set in the Afghan refugee settlement are uncomplicated in their minimal beauty, and are consistently devastating in their emotional power. In any case, BARAN is an excellent hour-and-a-half that qualifies as one of the finest of the recent wave of Iranian dramas.
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