SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ
Someone must have slandered Tehran jeweller Isaac Amin (Adrien Brody), for one morning in 1979, without cause, he is arrested. Surrounded by the Kafkaesque anti-logic of post-Revolution Iran, Isaac is accused - apropos of nothing except, perhaps, his affluence and Jewishness - of spying for Israel. He is taken to a secret prison and subjected to agonizing interrogations, while his distraught wife, Farnez (Selma Hayek), is left to make sense of what has happened, to somehow secure Isaac's release, and to get their family away from this new climate of fear and repression. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Yes, it's the same Wayne Blair who directed the hit Aussie musical, The Sapphires (2012), stretching his cinematic talent to a gritty thriller torn from history. The film is dedicated to families around the world who have suffered persecution. Sadly, that's a huge crowd. A middle class Jewish family in Tehran is in the wrong place at the wrong time: the Shah has been overthrown and the revolutionary spirit is flowing like blood in the streets. Drinking alcohol is not allowed, but stealing, bullying, torture and killings are carried out with a fervor only revolutions can unleash.
The film focuses on the family and the consequences of this violent upheaval, not the politics. Blair takes the view that cinema can provide uniquely visceral story telling tools which scratch away our defences in the face of harrowing material. Sitting safely in the comfort of the cinema, we are prodded into emotional action as the new world order in Iran tramples on freedoms it wishes it had had itself. That irony is always present in the world of violent struggle, but the screenplay (based on real events) works humanity into its savage core.
As Isaac, Adrien Brody delivers a nuanced character whose suburban life is suddenly proof of his guilt: he has made money, when those he is forced to call 'brother' despite showing no brotherly love, had nothing much. The question is openly posed: why should one family live in relative luxury and another not? Political systems the world over and time and again have failed to provide a genuine answer. Perhaps because there isn't one.
Salma Hayek plays his wife Farnez, a loyal and devoted mother to their two children, whose suffering is all emotional. Their longtime housekeeper Habibeh (Shoreh Adghadashloo) comes from poverty and is directly confronted with the new idealism of the revolution through her son, Mehdi (Anthony Azizi). This relationship works to explore the gulf that develops between even mother and son in such a scenario.
Good work, too, from Alon Aboutboul as Mohsen, the man in command who holds life and death within his hands. He is given a greater degree of complexity than we at first expect, which is the film's saving grace: the shades of grey that exist in human nature.
Made with passion and compassion, Septembers of Shiraz is a marvelously crafted film that leaves a lasting impression.
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SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ (M)
CAST: Adrien Brody, Salma Hayek, Shoreh Aghashloo, Gabriella Wright, Alon Aboutboul, Anthony Azizi, Bashar Rahal, Armin Amiri, Nasser Memarzia
PRODUCER: Gerard Butler, Heidi Jo Markel, Danielle Robinson, Alan Siegel, Hanna Weg, Les Weldon
DIRECTOR: Wayne Blair
SCRIPT: Hanna Weg (novel by Dalia Sofer)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Warwick Thornton
EDITOR: John Scott
MUSIC: Mark Siham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Annie Beauchamp
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 7, 2016