Cinema Scope December 2001

(Majid Majidi, Iran)

Baran is a plaintive ode to the plight ofAfghan refugees in a country where work is already scarce. Iran is home to one of the largest refugee populations in the world, and the situation for its Afghani immigrants (most of whom are not allowed to work) is extremely dire. More complex and mature than Majid Majid's previous work, Baran operates on three levels: as a story about a contemporary social problem; as a love story; and as a parable in which spiritual purity is attained through selflessness.
The film traces the moral development of Latif, a cocky teenage construction worker who gradually learns to care for others when he falls in love with Baran, a beautiful Afghan girl who is her family's sole provider. (The Afghani characters are played by actual refugees.) When Baran comes to Latif's workplace disguised in masculine garb, she is given his relatively easy job as cook, and he is demoted to hard physical labour. Resentful, Latifrnakes things difficult for the newcomer, until her secret awakens his compassion. With Baran, Majidi shifts his focus from children to teens, and uses all the elements of cinema to invoke the spiritual. His depiction of Baran conjures the angelic, especially in a scene when she feeds pigeons: The soft sound of their whirring wings repeats at the film's finale as Baran is enveloped by her burqa. Although Latif will never see her again, her essence will remain with him as a: constant inspiration for future self-sacrifice.

— Alissa Simon