Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Mill Valley ’15: Ablution (short)
Iran might have an Islamist government, but
aside from the Revolutionary interlude, average Iranians have never been
generally inclined towards fundamentalist orthodoxy. This disconnect will
deeply confuse a young devout Muslim woman in Canadian-Iranian filmmaker Parisa
Barani’s short Ablution (trailer here), which screens in a
slightly revised form during the 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival.
Neda Enezari’s mother Afsenah makes no secret
she was a “mistake,” While the pious twenty-something openly regards Afsenah’s
second marriage as a sin. Neda’s brother Omid reluctantly serves as a buffer
between them. He is much more modern in his thinking, but he still respects his
sister’s religious devotion. Tensions are already high, with the Iran-Iraq War
rudely interrupting everyday life on a regular basis, but the Enezari family’s
declining fortunes makes everything worse. Resenting her unhappiness,
particularly since she represents the Islamic Revolutionary ideal better than
nearly everyone around her, Neda Enezari will start to make a series of
It should be clearly noted Ablution portrays the fundamentalist
Enezari in profoundly respectful terms. It also finds considerable value in
religious observance. However, it is hard to think the ruling theocrats would
consider the film to be good for business. Rightly or wrongly, Enezari’s stringent
faith is isolating and alienating in practice. The symbolic interludes inspired
by Sufism probably would not sit well with the Shia powers-that-be either.
Although not a primary focus of the film, Barani and her co-writer-co-stars
Melissa Recalde and Amin El Gamal also give viewers a sense of the corrosive
fear and paranoia instilled in common citizens by the state and its notorious
Basij morality militia.
Recalde plays Enezari with admirable restraint
and sensitivity, but it is Amin El Gamal who probably earns the “breakout”
honors as the conflicted Omid Enezari. More than just a nice guy (always a
tricky role to play) or an audience surrogate, he really embodies the heart of
the film’s religious and social anxieties.
Barani’s short offers an intimate look inside
a middle class Iranian home, challenging some preconceptions and confirming
others. Revisiting it in its ever so subtly revised form, one is struck by Neda’s
confusion and bitterness that her fervor is not rewarded, while the impious
around her apparently lead happier, fuller lives. Watching Ablution, one starts to understand how this gap between the
promises of fundamentalism and the material benefits of modernity leads to
anger and potential tragedy.
Indeed, Ablution is provocative in ways we can
only obliquely hint at here. Highly recommended for those who appreciate
Iranian cinema and Persian culture, Ablution
screens tomorrow (10/16) and Saturday (10/17) as part of the 5 @ 5: Brand New Me short film
programming block at this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival.
Labels: Mill Valley '15, Short Films