Friday, June 24, 2016

Septembers of Shiraz: The Struggle of a Jewish Family During The Persian Revolution

By José Alberto Hermosillo
Septembers of Shiraz review

“Septembers of Shiraz” is a gripping and provocative cry for freedom.

In 1977, the song “Staying Alive” is heard as background at a gathering of a wealthy, secular Jewish/Iranian family in Tehran - when the Iranian religious revolution overthrew the regime of the Shah of Iran.

Septembers of Shiraz poster

The Amin family celebrates their son’s farewell, who will study abroad in Massachusetts.

Salma Hayek in Septembers of Shiraz review

At that time, the prosecution of hard-working, wealthy, and educated families was an everyday norm. The State considered that people could overthrow the government.

Septembers of Shiraz review
The Academy-winning winning actor Adrien Brody is terrific as Issac Amin. His character’s arc starts as a businessman and father figure, and he becomes a prisoner and a victim of torture. 
His suffering makes him value life more than any material possessions. Soon after, he negotiates his freedom and his family’s safety.

Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek-Pinault plays the devoted wife, Farnez, an Iranian Jewish woman with an opinion and a voice. As a woman in Iran, those skills are against the revolution. She is the ideal housewife and loving mother. She also writes for local magazines about lifestyles in foreign places. According to the new fundamentalist government, her pieces become indecent and subversive political propaganda.

Salma Hayek in Septembers of Shiraz. Review
“Septembers of Shiraz” is Salma Hayek’s best performance since “Frida.”  

 Oscar® nominee Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”) is terrific, and she plays Habibeh, who helps Farnez with house labor and personal moral issues. Her son Morteza (Navid Navid) becomes the “Judas” of the story, and he betrays everyone, including his mother and the revolution.
Based on the best-seller novel by Iranian-born, N.Y. -based writer Dalia Sofer, the film was adapted to the screen by a Yale graduate Hanna Weg.

The Australian director Wayne Blair (“The Sapphires”) in “Septembers of Shiraz” keeps the actors’ performance under-tone to contrast with the dominant images of torture and repression.

Salma Hayek in “Septembers of Shiraz.

The music by Mark Isham is discreet and capable of accentuating the actors’ emotions from the beginning. With only a few musical tones, the dramatic momentum continues throughout the story.

The film reconstructed the 1970’s period in Iran to precision. The production value of this film is exceptional. “Septembers of Shiraz” was shot in Bulgaria. Knowing their craft very well, they came out with a remarkable production.

In 2012, Hollywood tackled the Iranian conflict for CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), who helped rescue US diplomats from Tehran in “Argo.” The best picture Oscar® winner created controversy regarding the nationalities and the background.  

Having all talent from the exact origin is almost impossible in international production. Regardless of the nationalities, all the actors are genuine and respectful to the real people they portray.

“Septembers of Shiraz” has the feeling of authenticity. It may be visually predictable, but it illustrates this family struggle who helped many by giving them jobs and a brighter future in Iran before the revolution.

In the revolution, many were prosecuted and killed; in the film, we learned that people from different classes don’t mesh well. They betrayed their people; we must remember that the world has plenty of ingratitude. 

The fundamentalists in Iran call themselves “brothers,” even though they torture and kill each other.

“Septembers of Shiraz” is dedicated to all the families who have endured prosecution. Remarkable! An essential viewing that restores human dignity.

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