‘Empty Nets’ Review: A Hard But Nuanced Look At The Current Cost Of Living Crisis From An Iranian Perspective – Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

You know the modern world is in a dark place when even a middle-aged Iranian woman says that things were better in the old days. Indeed, for his first feature, director Behrooz Karamizade has crafted a thoughtful and intelligent drama that should travel well in today’s climate of insecurity, offering a fresh perspective on a multiplicity of world issues (drip theory, the gig economy). while also adding an especially nuanced subplot exploring the refugee crisis and the mechanics of human trafficking.

The setting is rural Iran, on the Caspian Sea coast, where twenty-something Amir (Hamid Reza Abbasi) struggles to make ends meet. Amir is in love with Narges (Sadaf Asgari) and wants to marry her, but Narges comes from a traditional family that thinks Amir is beneath her and plans to marry her daughter off to the highest bidder. After a date at the amusement park, where she narrowly dodges a relative, Narges says that she is “tired of playing hide-and-seek”. Amir tells her that she is saving up for her dowry, but even Amir’s mother knows that won’t happen. “At a time like this?” she says, with the news on TV. “You were my age when you got married,” Amir replies. “We didn’t have these problems,” says his mother.

What Narges does not yet know is that Amir has been fired from a job as a hotel waiter for refusing to cancel a lavish wedding after it is discovered that the father of the bride has not paid the full fee upfront. Principled but now unemployed, Amir cuts a sad figure as he wanders the city streets, asking for work where there are clearly none available. Finally, a peddler tells him about a fishery off the coast, run by a man named Ghasem (Behzad Dorani). Ghasem is old but tough and tells Amir upfront, “Here you only get paid if you work hard.” Like the hotel, fishing is part of Iran’s cash culture, and Ghasem deducts his wages in advance for room and board.

Amir shares his space with Omid (Keyvan Mohamadi), a quiet man who seems out of place in this dog-eat-dog environment, for reasons that will be explained later. Amir, meanwhile, throws himself into his new job and impresses his bosses with his stamina for swimming underwater by beating the local champion in an eel-catching competition. Amir realizes pretty quickly that his boss has no morals (after he catches Amir sorting out trash that gets caught in fishing nets, Ghasem tells him, “Throw it in the sea. It’s full of trash anyway”) . So Amit decides to confront Ghasem by telling the old man that he knows that he is involved in illegal caviar poaching and wants to be a part of it. Ghasem brings him on board, adding, “If you betray us, I’ll cut out your tongue.”

The stage is set for a bleak and, genre-wise, somewhat familiar story about an idealistic young man whose once-firm morals slowly and steadily erode, but Karamizade carefully makes this not a story. about the dangers of making bad decisions, but a harsh indictment of a society that takes away hope at every opportunity. Amir is an honest and hard-working boy who dreams of owning a hotel one day, but the closest he gets to that fantasy is hanging out in an empty construction site where he secretly meets Narges: a luxury hotel that was never finished. . In contrast to Amir, who wants to go up, there is Omid, who wants to go up. outside: Omid is a writer on the run from the authorities and has placed his faith in Ghasem, who says he will smuggle him abroad for a price. When Ghasem appears to renege on the deal, Omid proposes to Amir, a decision that will cost them both dearly.

It’s hard-hitting material, but Karamizade has a light touch, and his cinematographer, Ashkan Ashkani, gives the film a suitably seductive palette of aqua blue that reflects his compelling vision of a man who is, metaphorically, lost at sea. . Abbasi is particularly good in this regard, an unassuming but charismatic protagonist, in the vein of Gael García Bernal, who hooks us even as he falters further and further down the stretch. In fact, it is a measure of this subtle film that, and at the end of it all, allows us a breather, a ray of hope: the belief that, for some, the current culture of dead-end life in Iran, and elsewhere, place, for that matter, could still turn out to be avoidable.

Qualification: empty nets
Festival: Karlovy Vary (Crystal Globes Contest)
Director-scriptwriter: behrooz karamizade
Cast: Hamid Reza Abbasi, Sadaf Asgari, Keyvan Mohamadi, Pantea Panahiha
Execution time: 1 hour 41 minutes
Sales Agent: pluto movie

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