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An independently-minded Iranian widow and mother flouts tradition by re-opening her late husband's Europe/Asia border café in this socially-oriented drama from director Kambozia Partovi. In the wake of her husband's death, Reyhan (Fereshtei Sadre Orafaei) longs to re-open her late spouse's café despite rigid social standards that explicitly discourage her from doing so. Isolated from her friends and neighbors for her headstrong efforts to get the business back on her feet, Reyhan also faces pressure from her conservative brother-in-law Nasser (Parviz Parastoei) -- who longs to take Reyhan as his second wife as permitted by custom. Despite Nasser's vengeful efforts to break Reyhan's spirit and put her out of business, Reyhan's culinary skills soon begin drawing a healthy clientèle that includes kindly Greek trucker Zakariyo (Nikolas Padapopoulis); whose relationship with the determined restaurateur may provide an exit from her current crisis. Written by
Cafe Transit follows in the footsteps of Big Night, Babette's Feast, Tampopo and other excellent movies made particularly memorable for their integration of food as a focal point in the story. It is also one of the best, relatively mainstream, movies to come out of Iran in the last few years.
Its central theme is the role of women in male dominated societies. Its heroine, Reyhan, has just become a widow, with two small children to take care of. Her deceased husband's brother, Nasser, offers (in the local tradition of that part of Iran) to look after her by taking her as his second wife. Reyhan, however, is an independent woman and, spurning Nasser's offer, decides instead to re-open her husband's unsuccessful truck stop café. This puts her in direct competition with Nasser, who owns a much bigger and successful truck stop restaurant. As her café gradually builds up a fervent following, the tension between her and Nasser rises; particularly when a Greek truck driver takes a liking to Reyhan.
Cafe Transit is full of interesting characters and situations. It is the feature film debut for famed Iranian screen writer Kamobozia Partovi (The Circle, Taraneh Who is 15 Years Old). Fereshteh Sadr Orfani (Partovi's real life wife) is outstanding as Reyhan (she won a best actress award from Tehran International Film Festival) and the leading Iranian actor of the current Iranian cinema, Parviz Parastoui, is, as usual, excellent as Nasser.
What really separates Cafe Transit from other worthwhile Iranian movies is the way it depicts Reyhan's skills at cooking and transfers the appreciation of her cooking to the audience without us even tasting the food! Don't miss this movie if you get a chance!
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