In Farsi, English, Dari and Assyrian with subtitles.
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 0; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 0.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together
What might be regarded as an Iranian version of WKRP in Cincinnati combined with Waiting for Godot has its share of laughs, but also many quieter moments. Iranian British director Babak Jalali, also the co-writer with Aida Ahadiany, sets his immigrants’ tale in San Francisco radio station PARS-FM, the staff of which is almost as amusing and eccentric as that of Mary Tyler Moore’s WJM. Much of the film’s droll humor is conveyed by having the various characters almost never smile despite a funny occurrence or statement.
Iranian singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo stars as the station’s program director Hamid Royin. Once a revered poet and writer who had to flee his beloved Iran, he struggles to maintain high standards at the station whose owner and daughter are stressed out by the problem of raising money to keep the tiny station afloat—how big can an audience for a Parsi language station be? Whereas the owner Mr. Afshar (Keyumars Hakim) in one weird sequence seems more interested in the sport of wrestling than broadcasting, his daughter Marla (Boshra Dastournezhad), holding the reins of management, is Hamid’s chief antagonist.
It is a big day at the station because Hamid has arranged for the American band Metallica to visit the station and jam with Kabul Dreams (a real-life Afghan rock band) that have traveled all the way from their name-sake city for this gig. However, except for saying “Yes” to his invitation, they have not set a time for showing up.
Anticipating a larger than usual audience, Marla has sold more than the usual ad space to locals, such as a dermatologist who removes unwanted hair from Iranian women and Baba Jaan Pizza. Despite this being a special day Hamid insists on speaking about the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton and reading a poem, such readings having been determined as dial-turners in the past. He tells an obscure story, and later, before he finishes a serious interview, the station’s musician breaks in with a terrible jingle. The high-minded Hamid sneers not only at such home-made commercials but also at the idea of having to interview Miss Iran USA.
As in Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guthman, the day progresses, and there is no Metillica. The inane programming continues. A dim-witted staff member is sent to find a guitar to replace one that is missing, in case it is needed when the American band does show up. The hours pass, and still no Metallica. The hopes and the energy level in the station drop lower and lower with each passing hour, and then each minute—unfortunately this is not a 24-hour station.
From Hamid we learn of his desire to bring peace to a world direly in need of it. He sees the hoped-for meet-up of Metallica and Kabul Dreams not as a ratings raiser designed to bring in more ad revenue, but as a way to bring East and West together. Though with his shaggy, straggly hair he seems to be a parody of Albert Einstein, his intentions are serious, indeed laudable. As he was sharing this I saw him as following in the wake of the great American dreamer for peace and reconciliation, MLK, as well as that of the Hebrew prophet.
Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich playing himself, does shows up, but… As in real life, dreams do not always turn out in the way we had planned. The closing juxtaposition of scenes between the drummer and Kabul Dreams with that of the despondent Kumail is very poignant as a study in contrasts.
It is interesting that within a couple of weeks two immigrant films played here in the Cincinnati area, both comedies interspersed with some serious moments. I wish this one had the backing enjoyed by The Big Sick, because unlike that better-known film, it closed after a week. This is another of those little films you will have to track down, but it is worth the effort.
This review with a set of questions will be in the Aug. 2017 issue of VP.