FireDancer (2003)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 4, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - Afghanistan , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Jawed Wassel's FireDancer is a consistently interesting exploration of the lives of Afghan-Americans and their struggle to balance their connection to religious and cultural traditions with their need to adapt to a new world. The leads, Baktash Zaher as Haris and Yasmine Weiss as Laila, are appealing, and once they get past their overly strident first encounter, Wassel is successful at making us root for them to get together. The cast is generally good, with a few performances, like David Azizi's exuberant comic turn as Sunny, standing out. FireDancer has the makings of a first-rate culture-clash romantic comedy in these characters (along with interesting supporting characters like Laila's blindly sexist brother, Farhad [Omar Arzo]). To Wassel's credit, he had a more challenging film in mind, one that mines the traumatic past of a nation and the complexities involved in assimilation into a different culture, at a time when one is also discovering one's own values. Unfortunately, the filmmaker's reach may have exceeded his grasp. The flashback/ghost sequences of Haris's childhood experiences of escaping Afghanistan and of his murdered father speaking to him, and Laila's sister's (Sophia Cameron) strange visions of her own return to her country, are clumsily inserted into the story and distract from the more simply appealing parts of the story. Wassel still deserves a great deal of credit for his ambition, and for making a compelling, if flawed, first feature.