Variety Film International February 19-25 2001


Baran ( Iran)

Produced by Fouad Nahas, Majid Majidi
Directed, written by Majid Majidi
Camera ( Color): Mohammad Davoudi
Editor : Hassan Hasandoost
Music: Ahmad Pezhman
Production Designer: Behzad Kazzazi
Sound: Yadollah Najafi
Sound Mix: Reza Delpak

Reviewed at Fajr Film Festival, Feb 5, 2001.Running time: 94 minutes

By DEBORAH YOUNG

Stepping back from the magical colors and all-stops-out sentiment that earned "Children of Heaven" and the "Color of Paradise" worldwide distribution and awards, director Majid Majidi retrenches to more sober but still very touching drama on "Baran". Though the film's less flamboyant tone may make it less immediately appealling, it ultimately seems a mature choice capable of striking even deeper emotional chords. A fine cast brings the believable, sometimes humourous characters to life and gradually draws the viewer into a well-crafted, well-paced story. As the most interesting new picture screened at the recent Fajr Festival, it looks poised for success domestically as well as through international distribs, particularly in territories where the director has been previously introduced to auds.
The hopeless love story between a cocky iranian boy and a destitute young afghan girl, told in gestures and glances, skillfully binds together the broad social theme of refugees with Majidi's vision of the spiritual purity that is attainable through selfless love.
Shot like a smoky, high-rise hell, a construction site in northern Teheran pays low wages to Iranian and clandestineAfghani workers. The latter commute long hours from refugee villages, are paid less and have to hide when building inspectors come around. Scrappy tea boy Lateef ( Hossein Abedini) views the Afghans darkly, especially when a weak new boy is given his easy job, and he is forced to carry heavy cement bags.
As is pretty obvious from the first, the bundled-up waif is a girl in disguise, Baran (Zahra Bahrami). Comically, she adds much-appreciated feminine touches to the grim site, like patterned tableclothes, plants and superior cooking. For some reason, the men don't catch on.Only Lateef, as he plays malicious tricks on her, stumbles onto her secret.
Secretly love struck, he now does what he can to ease her hardships. Lateef's love surpasses conventional sentiment and approaches the ineffable.What makes this particularly moving is the simplicity of the characters, in Abedini's and Bahrami's expressive but unaffected perfs.
In its bittersweet closing scenes, the film reaches moments of great visual poetry. One of the most visually accomplished of Iranian directors, Majidi and his cinematographer Mohammad Davoudi abandon the bright hues of "The Color of Paradise" for sad grays and greens. Colors appear only in scenes with women. Baran's vulnerable face is an indelible image in itself, a symbol of the misery into which some of 1.4 millions afghans refugees have plunged. Ahmad Pezhman's score is handles with a light touch.