Baran

"Excellent"

Baran Review


Before jumping into the details of this dramatic love story, some cultural details need to be outlined. Afghanistan's poverty is acknowledged fact. From control by the Soviets to that of the Taliban, the average citizen has had little freedom. Hence, refugees risk exhaustive trips to work in neighboring countries, such as Iran, in the hopes of saving money and freeing the rest of their family.

This is where Baran begins, at a construction site mostly functioning on illegal Afghani immigrants, supervised by the kind but frugal Memar (Mohammad Reza Naji). He hires them because they are cheap and work hard, though government officials are constantly popping by to squash the use of this labor force. Iran isn't the richest country either, and the stream of immigrants grows everyday.

Lateef (Hossein Abedini), an Iran native, is the caregiver to the crew, providing them with meals and tea. He is often lazy, sarcastic, and hot-headed, much to the dismay of those around him. He becomes incensed when he is moved to more rigorous duties after an accident, and a young Afghani replaces him in his previous stress-free post. His hostility quickly changes to chivalry when he finds his predecessor is a woman, to whom he is instantly attracted.

The rest of the film concentrates on his need to care for the object of his infatuation. He follows her, finds ways to give her family money, and cries to see her small frame hauling huge rocks. It's sweet to watch such a humanistic turn in an obnoxious character, especially as Baran's (Zahra Bahrami) plight is desperate and uncomplaining.

However, it begs the question of why he never talks to her. He talks to everyone else in her vicinity, but turns down any opportunity at interaction. Maybe it's a cultural quirk incomprehensible from an American standpoint but after watching someone chase after another for over an hour, some kind of connection should be possible. The lack of even eye communication makes the film feel longer as one good deed after another seems to bring no reward.

On the other hand, it does feel like sincere love story, without inane lust scenes to spoil the naïve emotions. Each new favor Lateef thanklessly performs adds a touching moment of sharing pain. The script is written meticulously, allowing body language and stares to override the need for melodramatic dialogue in even the most depressing situations.

Baran also derives a lyrical beauty through its simple, underwhelming music score, set against a background of sad geographic naturalism. The construction site is a cold, vulnerable shell for government probing. The hovels that the immigrants live in have been made comfortable, but seem like they could crumble at any moment. These environs force people to look for solace in each other, but happiness is not in the near future for Baran, and Lateef's sympathies are that much more moving because of it.

Baran is an intelligent fiction about learning through cultural clash. Though an outsider may not fully appreciate the hardship of living in this situation, the portrayal of human frailty and urge to assist at a loss to oneself is easy to relate to.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 14th March 2002

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 55 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Lateef, as Baran, Mohammad Amir Naji as Memar, as Soltan, Abbas Rahimi as Soltan, as Najaf, Jafar Tawakoli as Inspector, Yadollah Hedayati as Lors workers' chief, Parviz Larijani as Shop owner, Mahmoud Behraznia as Building Contractor, Pasha Barabadi as Inspector, Kamai Parto as Inspector, Maghsood Moghadan as Turkish workers' chief, Christopher Maleki as Hassan

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