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 www.festivalinLA.com
“Septembers of Shiraz” is gripping and provocative. A 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 is going to study abroad, to Massachusetts.
Salma Hayek in Septembers of Shiraz review www.festivalinLA.com

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 www.festivalinLA.com
 
The Oscar® winning actor Adrien Brody is terrific as Issac Amin. His character’s arc starts as a businessman and father figure. 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 who has 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. Her pieces become indecent and subversive political propaganda according to the new fundamentalists government.

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

 Oscar® nominee Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”), is terrific. She plays Habibeh. She is the woman who helps Farnez with the house labors and with some moral issues as well. Her son is Morteza (Navid Navid), becomes the “Judas” of the story. 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 in an 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.

With only a few musical tones, the dramatic momentum gained in the beginning does not exceed the rest of 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 some controversy regarding the nationalities and the background.  

In an international production, it is almost impossible to have all talent from the same origin. Regardless of the nationalities, all the actors are genuine and respectful to the real people they portrayed.

“Septembers of Shiraz” has the feeling of authenticity. It may be visually predictable, but clearly 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 have to remember that there is a lot of ingratitude in this world. 

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 in the world. Remarkable! An essential viewing that restores human dignity.


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