Kyle Cubr reviews Iran’s “Breath” for Cine-File Chicago

subtext-eyeGiven the United States’ current political realities regarding its handling of refugees, the (for now staid) travel ban on people from certain Middle Eastern countries, and the still-unbalanced position of women in society (She persisted, anyone?), BREATH is a breath of fresh air for American audiences. A film that celebrates both female empowerment and the innocence of childhood while starkly contrasted against the doom and destruction of war and international conflict is hard to ignore. Reminiscent of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, the film takes place in Iran during a five-year period near the end of the 1970’s; its central focus is on Bahar, a young school-aged girl who sees the world around her in as fantastic a manner as the books that she reads depict. Her view on the world frequently features dreamlike qualities, surreal or animated in nature. Narges Abyar’s mixed-media approach offers Bahar an escape from her harsh circumstances, whether from an overbearing grandmother or from the Iran-Iraq War. The juxtaposition of Bahar’s imaginative, fantasy rendering of her world to the unmediated reality is one that resonates beyond the frame as the film unintentionally serves as an analogy for the treatment of Iranians and Muslims in the modern world. BREATH serves as a reminder that there can always be a silver lining, even when all hope and innocence seems to be lost.

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