Delbaran (2001)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - Iran , Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Delbaran is an elliptical drama, laced with sardonic humor, that packs a surprising emotional punch. Writer/director/editor Abolfazi Jalili tells the poignant story predominantly through beautiful, stark images. The film requires concentration from viewers, as there's little exposition to explain who the characters are and what their relationships are. For example, the reason for the playful antipathy between the errand boy, Kaim (Kaim Alizadeh), and the mechanic is never explained. It's simply clear from their first interaction that they don't get along very well. The film's hold on the viewer builds slowly. Like the vehicles that break down on the desert road throughout the film and need to be towed and fixed, narrative is not a driving force here. Gradually, Kaim's precarious immigration status, and the tragic circumstances he left behind in Afghanistan are revealed. Using sound effects, and one simple shot of an arm stuck on a barbwire fence, Jalili subtly but constantly reminds us of the violence and death that exist just a short distance away, over the Afghan border. Kaim is obviously clever, but he isn't devious enough to avoid the immigration officer (Ahmad Mahdavi) when the man needs help, or even to lie to the policeman about where he's from. Other characters, even Mahdavi, who might have been played as a villain, also have their charm. The efforts of the old woman, Khale, to save Kaim from deportation are both funny and touching. Kaim doesn't say much, but in the end, his integrity and his loyalty to those who help him are very endearing. Like the filmmaker, he's able to get his point across without many words.