There are no shoe-loving, crippled children in Majid Majidi’s Baran, which pays humanist attention to the plight of Afghan refugees. The film is less feel-good than Children of Heaven and less picturesque than The Color of Paradise but powerfully lucid. After 1979’s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, refugees made their way into neighboring Iran, working clandestinely without proper papers. Though the film’s timing couldn’t be better, the opening title card that relates the history of the land may or may not fall on deaf liberal ears (Majidi bemoans the poverty Muslims face because of the civil wars caused by the foreign presence in their land). Memar (Mohammad Amir Naji) employs a legion of Afghan workers, substituting the injured with the young while frugally hoarding their wages, and hotheaded teen Latif (Hossein Abedini) grows to resent young Rahmat (Zahra Bahrami) when Memar’s workers find their dinner table is better decorated by the new kid on the construction block. The feeble Rahmat falls when carrying a bag of cement up the kind of sadistic staircase, and once ball-busting Latif discovers that Rahmat is really a young girl in disguise, he finds himself drawn to her economic plight. Despite a series of ridiculous slow-mo flourishes, Majidi evocatively plays with water and fire imagery. Latif makes his way through his rain-drenched town, visiting the poverty-stricken people of the country that long to reunite with family members trapped in war-torn Afghanistan. The kind boy becomes convinced that he can cure the world: he gives one man a pair of crutches and gives another his entire year’s salary. Having sold his identification papers for money, Latif becomes an active participant in Rahmat’s salvation (she will no longer have to pick stones from riverbeds). The film’s humanity and the overwhelming sense of uncertainty it conveys are remarkable to behold.
- Miramax Films
- 92 min
- Majid Majidi
- Majid Majidi
- Hossein Abedini, Zahra Bahrami, Mohammad Amir Naji, Hossein Mahjoub, Gholam Ali Bakhshi, Jafar Tawakoli, Abbas Rahimi
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: