Young Lateef works on a construction site in Tehran with some Turks and a few illegal Afghan workers. When Lateef is given heavier tasks to compensate for new Afghan worker Rahmat, he resents his displacement and treats Rahmat cruelly. After one of his pranks, however, Lateef discovers Rahmat's secret--he is a girl named Baran. Latif's heart softens towards Baran and he shows his new affection for her by doing what he can to ease the hardships she suffers at work. When government inspectors force all Afghans to be fired from the site, Lateef discovers he cannot bear to be without her. Jeopardizing social standing and endangering his own well being, Lateef stops at nothing to save his love.Written by
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A Humanistic Film, Full of Warmth and Humor
`Don't you go letting life harden your heart . . . we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. We always have the choice.' ...The Dalai Lama
Baran is the latest film from the director of Children of Heaven and Color of Paradise. It has strong appeal because of the natural performances of its non-professional actors, its well-drawn characters, and its message of the transforming power of generosity. Like Kandahar, our attention is drawn to the desperate plight of the Afghan people.
Baran begins with a note about the reality of the 1.4 million refugees from Afghanistan living in Iran, a number that has probably increased substantially since September 11th. Some are of the current generation that was born in Iran and have never set foot in Afghanistan; others have recently fled from Taliban oppression and long to return home. Afghans are forbidden to hold jobs by Iranian law and must work illegally, usually in unskilled heavy labor jobs.
Shot in the style of the Italian Neo-Realists (realistic stories told against real backgrounds with sometimes non-professional casts), Baran has a tone of drabness, only occasionally interrupted with bursts of color. At a construction site in Northern Tehran, Memar (Mohammad Amir Naji) employs a large number of Afghans to work along side of Turks and Iranians. This film shows a microcosm of the blue-collar working class in today's Tehran. Many languages are spoken and the film sheds some light on the variety of ethnic groups present in Iran. In spite of some harsh treatment of workers Memar has moments of generosity and humor, and his outwardly harsh exterior seems to mask a genuine sympathy for the workers.
A 17 year old Iranian tea boy, Latif (Hossein Abedini), an Iranian Azeri, feels his job is threatened by a new worker Rahmat (Zahra Bahrami) who comes to work when his father is injured on the job. Rahmat has difficulty performing construction tasks and is moved to the kitchen to prepare and serve the tea, essentially switching jobs with Latif. Latif, short tempered to begin with, now takes out after Rahmat, intent on getting revenge, leading to a series of slapstick encounters that are almost Chaplinesque in tone.
After Latif discovers Rahmat's secret (he is a she named "Baran"), the film is devoted to his transformation from a selfish wise guy to a caring and surprisingly generous young man. The film becomes a series of encounters in which Latif, infatuated with Rahmat, secretly tries to help her in any way possible, donating his entire savings to her family and involving himself in protecting her from the hands of inspectors looking for illegal immigrants.
Though I found Baran to be, at times, somewhat repetitious and dramatically weak (it doesn't help that Latif and Rahmat never interact), it is a humanistic film, full of warmth and humor. Though a film about dehumanizing working conditions, its true focus is the emotional awakening of a young man who has discovered his own self worth through the act of kindness to another, perhaps symbolizing the discovery of the plight of Afghans by the Western world. Baran (also translated as "Rain", the symbol for springtime) builds to a poignant climax, leaving Latif with the wistful image of a footstep in rain-splattered mud, an image that may remain with him as a constant inspiration for future self-sacrifice.
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