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Born in Evin (2019)

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Filmmaker and actress, Maryam Zaree, and her quest to find out the circumstances surrounding her birth inside one of the most notorious political prisons in the world.


Maryam Zaree
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Credited cast:
Maryam Zaree ... Self
Sima Boulanger Sima Boulanger
Marya Sirous Marya Sirous
Chowra Makaremi Chowra Makaremi ... Self
Soraya Zangbari Soraya Zangbari
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Born in Evin follows filmmaker and actress, Maryam Zaree, on her quest to find out the violent circumstances surrounding her birth inside one of the most notorious political prisons in the world. Exactly forty years have passed since the monarchy of the Shah of Iran was toppled and the Islamic Republic declared. In the 1980's Ayatollah Khomeini, the so-called religious leader, had tens of thousands of political opponents arrested, persecuted and murdered. Among them the filmmaker's parents who, after years in prison, managed to seek asylum in Germany. The family never talked about their persecution and imprisonment. Maryam Zaree faces the decades-long silence and explores her own questions about the place and the circumstances of her birth. Written by Maryam Zaree

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Well-made documentary but her research does not provide any answers. The cliché that Time Heals All Wounds does not apply here
27 February 2019 | by JvH48See all my reviews

Saw this at the Berlinale 2019, as part of the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section (Perspectives on German Cinema). I left the venue with mixed feelings about this documentary, thereby not meaning to dismiss its qualities as a documentary, but rather that her objectives make me doubt as well as that she eventually achieved not much. The research attempt was commendable, but we did not learn much more than what we already suspected. The mother of the film maker was not the only obstacle withholding her to find information about circumstances in the Iranian prison where she was born. All others were equally defensive about their years as a political prisoner, only providing sparse details, or even cancelling the appointment at the last moment, thereby telling it was too difficult to recount those dire years. The cliché that Time Heals All Wounds does not apply here, obviously, even after forty years have passed.

It is daunting to imagine daily life in an Iranian prison at the time. These prisoners have done nothing wrong in the context of our legal system. They were only held in custody while deemed political adversaries of a regime that tolerated no free expression whatsoever. Some of the prisoners were hanged eventually, some were "only" interrogated (mind the quotes), but all were kept under miserable circumstances for many years, packed with many in the same cell, without due medical care nor proper food.

The little we get to know about giving birth in such a prison, is nightmarish to say the least: if the mother in labor made too much noise, the other women in her neighborhood would be beaten. Another former prisoner who lived there as a young child, has nightmares about beatings and blood all over, something deep in her memory as she was very young at the time, but the dreadful images keeps popping up regularly in her dreams.

The opening scene tells a fairy tale (or a myth) that baby's are born with a burning candle on their head, knowing everything there is to know. Once they are born the candle is blown out and he/she forgets it all, thus having to regain that knowledge piecewise during their future lifetime. This story is told with a purpose, I assume, and lets us ponder how much a very young child remembers from their first years. This notion resurfaces near the finale, but I can't remember exactly whether it was linked to said nightmares and what is kept in memory of those very young years in prison.

The daughter/filmmaker goes to every imaginable length to learn more about her years in prison. She was born there and lived there some years together with her mother. As a result, she thinks she has every right to know, though her mother stubbornly refuses to tell anything about it. Remarkably, halfway in the movie someone says that the history she is researching is not her history but that of her mother's (and a large part of the audience applauded, so it felt on furtile ground). Gradually, she learns some fragments about the time in prison, some bits and pieces, but a real insight is not provided. And given the few fragments we heard, it is OK to leave it at that, as such details are not the things you really want to know.

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German | English | French | Persian

Release Date:

17 October 2019 (Germany) See more »

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