A Reel Life film section

Issue: Winter 2016

Septembers of Shiraz (2015) movie review

Revolution of Masks

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movie poster, Septembers of Shiraz, Festivale film review; 400x589

Movie poster, Septembers of Shiraz

Prior to the Iranian revolution it was a place where people of all religions were allowed to flourish. Septembers of Shiraz is based on the true story of a prosperous Jewish family who abandon everything before they are consumed by the passions of revolutionaries

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." -- Jalal ad-Din Rumi, 13th Century Persian Mystic

Isaac (Adrien Brody) is a gemologist, his wife Farnez (Selma Hayek) used to 'dabble' in writing, their son is going to school in the United States, and their daughter rounds out a happy family.

Based on the acclaimed best-seller by Dalia Sofer, Septembers of Shiraz is set in post 1979 Iran. The Ayotollah and his fundamentalist rebels overthrew the Shah of Iran, a ruler who held immense wealth, but amid the imposition of religious law came a climate of intense fear and violence. Thousands of executions took place between 1979 and 1982, often based on vague charges of corruption or, among Iran's once-thriving Jewish community, charges of spying for Israel.

Farnez doesn't want to face the changes in Iran. When Isaac is suddenly arrested and taken to an unmarked prison, she is brought to reality. "I would like to know where my husband is.", she says. Only to be told that she is no longer in a position to make demands.

movie still, Selma Hayek in Septembers of Shiraz, Festivale film review; 600x405

Selma Hayek (Farnez) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Habibeh) search for Isaac. Sepetembers of Shiraz (Photo: courtesy Millennium Films, Roadshow Films)

The changes, the revolution, in Septembers of Shiraz, are against the excesses of the Shah, but more importantly, they are a reaction to a society divided by wealth and privilege. The have-nots have the power now, and they are willing to be as brutal as they can be. Thieving from the wealthy is the way now. Destruction, death.

Why should they have what we have not?

And so Farnez is confronted by the fact that her 'friend' and servant Habibeh (Shohreh Aghdashloo) considers her condescending, and not a friend. Habibeh is the average person in this story. She repeats the slogans and ideas spouted by her son (who is not an idealist by any means). She wears the coverings, she follows the religious laws, and she is the voice and body of the servant class, the poor.

Meanwhile Isaac shows us the reality of the new order. Taken from his office, hooded, and confronted by accusers and interrogators, and torturers who hide behind masks.

movie still, Adrien Brody in Septembers of Shiraz, Festivale film review; 600x405

Isaac (Adrien Brody) is thrown into prison where the captors wear masks. Septembers of Shiraz (Photo: courtesy Millennium Films, Roadshow Films)

For a relatively small film, the film-makers of Septembers of Shiraz are ambitious. They want to expose brutality and hypocrisy, and the triumph of humans who endure, but they also want to create a suspense thriller - and that they didn't do.

Septembers of Shiraz has human interest, people with real motives, but it is a story to watch, not a suspenseful ride to the conclusion. An interesting look at a revolution that we saw on the news, from the point of view of the people who lived it.

movie still, Adrien Brody in Septembers of Shiraz, Festivale film revie; 600x405

Isaac (Adrien Brody) shows his compassion towards others in prison. movie still, Septembers of Shiraz (Photo courtesy Millennium Films, Roadshow Films)

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by Ali Kayn
Australian release 7 July 2016
For credits and official site details, see below
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Just the facts:

Title: Septembers of Shiraz (2015)
Written by: Hanna Weg (scr), Dalia Sofer (novel)
Directed by: Wayne Blair
Running time: 110 mins
Rating: M

The Players: Salma Hayek, Adrien Brody,

Official website:
IMDb entry

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