Radio is sort of like a Farsi-language WKRP, but more existential. On most
days, the esteemed literary-émigré program-director Hamid Royani has carte
blanche to present the sort of elite broadcasts for the Bay Area
Iranian-American community that interest him. However, this is not an ordinary
day. Metallica will be coming to Pars to jam with the Afghan rock band Kabul
Dreams, whose cause they have championed. The eccentric station owner’s
business-minded daughter Maral refuses to let them squander this commercial
opportunity. This inevitably leads to conflict in Babak Jalali’s Radio Dreams (trailer here), which screens during the
2016 San Francisco International Film Festival.
Metallica is coming, but their “people” were never very clear about when. That
generates even more stress and uncertainty for the Pars staff. While there does
seem like there is a Beckett-like “Waiting for Metallica” element to the film,
it should be admitted up-front as a not very spoilery spoiler that the good
sport Lars Ulrich does indeed show up in advance of the rest of the band and do
right by the musicians of the real life Kabul Dreams. As a result, Radio Dreams might be the most commercial
quietly observational Farsi dramedy since who knows when.
conflict in the film is the veritable fight for the station’s soul and
financial health waged by Royani and Maral. He continues to program poetry,
short story readings, and naval gazing essays in the worst tradition of NPR
with perverse determination, while the latter would like to pay the bills. As
everyone waits for the two bands to arrive, the Pars broadcasts seesaw between
his low key classiness and the jarringly brash commercials paid for by her
brand new sponsors.
the bands start to jam, the film is nearly as soft-spoken as one of Royani’s
poetry recitals. However, he is an extraordinarily compelling figure to watch
on screen. Played by Mohsen Namjoo (often referred to as “the Bob Dylan of Iran”),
Royani radiates sad dignity. He has no problem with Metallica or Kabul Dreams,
mind you, but interviewing the reigning Iranian American beauty queen clearly
rubs him the wrong way.
Boshra Dastournezhad goes toe-to-toe with Namjoo, never giving any ground. She
certainly has presence and quite a withering stare. Unfortunately, most of the
rest of the passive station personnel are largely overshadowed by the intensity
of these two polar opposites. However, Ulrich could earn quite a few
Farsi-speaking fans for Metallica with his energizing appearance.
might almost be too reserved for his own good, but the fatalistic vibe he
nurtures is unusually distinctive. Indeed, it is an unflaggingly literate and
gently ironic film. Recommended for patrons of Iranian diasporic cinema and the
top one percent of Metallica fans, Radio
Dreams screens this Thursday (4/28) and Friday (4/29), as part of this year’s
Labels: Metallica, Mohsen Namjoo, SFIFF '16