By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Parting cleverly tells a part of the refugee struggle that’s not usually told. It’s an informative look into the complicated and gruelling process of escaping one’s own country, before even thinking about the perils that lay on the journey ahead.
This Afghan/Iranian production directed by Navid Mahmoudi sees two young Afghans Nabi (Reza Ahmadi) and Fereshteh (Fereshteh Hosseini) attempt to leave Iran to find a better future in Europe, but complications keep the couple grounded in Tehran.
Mahmoudi’s debut feature, and Afghanistan’s Oscar submission for 2017, stands apart from the conventional refugee film or documentary because it puts a focus on the difficulties of crossing Middle Eastern borders, let alone European ones. We often here about the boats on the way to Greece or the treacherous roads to Turkey, but the trouble starts way before then.
Inspired by the director’s own immigrant parents, Parting begins as a heated kind of road thriller with Nabi peeping out onto a busy highway through the boot of a car, before sprinting across a desert attempting to escape border patrol. However, the thrill of the chase soon dissipates and we’re left with more of a romance drama. A suburban Romeo and Juliet. Even the title Parting suggests that we’re in for a doomed relationship from the get-go.
We then spend a significant amount of time in Tehran while the couple wander the streets attempting to gain safe passage to Turkey. As anyone moving to another country knows, there’s a lot of bureaucracy to put up with, and that’s magnified by ten fold here. Despite the couple’s best efforts to get the ball rolling, there’s always something in the way.
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The film cleverly highlights the monotony and sheer frustration of being trapped in limbo by use of elevated sound and long shots of the couple walking helplessly through the busy traffic of Tehran. Perhaps what’s most interesting about this film is that rather than addressing the dangers on the road, it addresses the very real frustration with just waiting and constantly falling into the dark depths of uncertainty – a side not often portrayed in mainstream film.
The problem is however, is that we’re shown too much of this. After some time, the shots of endless traffic and meaningless walking become a bit tiring. The point is made earlier on and the film could have sufficed without some sequences. Even the lead couple appear lost at times.
Otherwise, Parting is a well-rounded film and an insightful look into the perils of asylum seekers. It’s all about the journey, before the journey, so to speak. The film is one of the many featured in this year’s Feature Film competition at the Festival of Iranian Films. Be sure to check out some of the other contenders.