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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Border Cafe (review)

The Iranian film industry has produced some of the most beautiful films made on planet Earth in recent years, which seems ironic, because when we Westerners tend to think of the Middle East, we think — however unfairly — of a region rife with insensitivity and severity. It takes a film like Kambozia Patrovi’s Border Cafe (also known as Café Transit) to remind us not to confuse a government and its policies with the people it governs. Reyhan (Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy) is a young widow who, though still grieving, fights the tradition that dictates that her husband’s brother take her as a wife, and that bars her from making a living on her own in the only way she knows how: as the cook in the roadside restaurant her husband had owned. Patrovi, who made the wonderfully perceptive Deserted Station, here creates a delicately realized portrait of the limited but undeniable power of a woman’s rebellion in a rigid culture as Reyhan battles her brother-in-law, Nasser (Parviz Parastui), for her own autonomy, and learns to incorporate the shy advances of Greek trucker Zakariyo (Nikos Papadopoulos), a frequent customer at the cafe, into her view of herself as an independent woman. This was Iran’s submission in the Best Foreign Film category for the 2006 Oscars (it was not nominated), and it is a sublimely glorious film. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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