What is life like in Iran, are they all fanatics who are stewing in resentment for America? How do we view Iranians? What mental image do we hold of them. It is easy to judge a whole country by the actions of a few people. According to most people Iran is a war-torn nation, a place of refuge for Afghan citizens forced to leave their own country. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, thousands of afghans sought refuge in Iran. No one knows the exact number of refugees who migrated to Iran, but the Iranian authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate there are between 1.5 to 2 million Afghans in the country. Most of the afghans in the country live in abject poverty, they do not have a lot of sources to earn their income. Most of them work for low wages in construction, agriculture or in factories or small shops. We are only familiar with what the news reports, regarding the conditions of the Afghans and Iranians. The intriguing thing about Baran is that it gives a face to all these people and it tells us about the difficulties they have to suffer.
The movie is a romantic fable about a construction worker. The protagonist, Lateef(Hossein Abedini) works at a building site near the border with Afghanistan. All the labour done at this site is manual in nature. That includes hauling heavy bags of cement up and down the construction site. Lateef is not a hard worker.
Since he is an Iranian, most of the hard labour is being done by the Afghan refugees who are grossly underpaid. Lateef is employed at the site as a tea boy. He serves all the workers with hot cups of tea, a source of relief in the harsh cold and damp weather. Money plays a very crucial part throughout the movie, a scene where Lateef is shown picking up a coin off the sidewalk while getting the breads for the worker’s lunch.
There are several scenes where the workers are shown asking their employer, Memar (Mohammad Amir Naji) for the money that he owed them. Memar has employed a legion of Afghanis at the construction. As it is illegal to hire Afghanis with the right papers, they are hired for a low wage and have no help when they are not paid the money they are owed.
The premise of the movie is Adversity Overcome by Positive Outlook to Life. The adverse conditions of the Afghans are displayed along with the scenes where they are shown enjoying themselves by playing music and drinking tea together in their little two by two rooms, that are cramped with at least 15 people. Similarly the girl Rahmat (Zahra Bahrami) is introduced in Lateef’s life when tragedy strike and Soltan (Hossein Mahjoub Abbas Rahimi), an Afghan worker is heavily injured in an accident. A family friend arrives with Rahmat posing as Soltan’s son.
After several failures of Rehmat in doing for that involves physical strength, the employer Memar, gives Rehmat the job of serving tea to the workers, that was initially Latif’s job.
This leads to Latif resenting Rehmat in lieu of stealing his job and forcing him to do physical labour. However all this anger and envy turns to compassion once Latif realises that Rehmat is a woman in disguise. Latif immediately becomes her protecter and even finds himself in jail as a result of fighting two government inspectors whilst protecting Rehmat.
Because of this incident Memar is forced to let all the Afghan workers go. Latif decides to take time off of his job asking Memar to let him go so that he can take care of his sister suffering from a disease. He later finds Rehmat working near a river and gives soltan all his savings so that he can help Rehmat. But Soltan uses this money for himself to return to war-torn Afghanistan.
The movie Baran outlines the Middle Eastern Society. Insistent in forming barriers in between men and women. This society has literature filled with stories along similar lines, about men and women using disguise in order to pass through each other’s worlds. The vast gulf between Rehmat and Latif is dramatised in the way that they fall in love with one another without having to say a single word to each other. Meanwhile, watching the working conditions of the workers, quality of the working grounds constant raids by government officials shows us the ground level economy of the Iranian society.
Majidi in this piece of art uses the sunlight, a completely natural and free resource, if you can time your filmmaking around it, as a dazzling accessory. The presence of the shoemaker in the village who Latif meets while travelling is a pleasant surprise as, he seems to have quite thoughtful observations about life. Baran depicts the process in which in which a perceived enemy can be transformed into a loved one. The selfless acts of Lateef show what a person will do for their loved one in the most adverse of conditions.
This movie is what one would use to describe the phrase “ Actions speak louder than words”. The use of non-professional actors gives the movie a very raw, authentic and spontaneous look. The final scene of the movie shows Rehmat dropping her burkha in front of Lateef which depicts that she is aware of the fact that Lateef is in love with her, and how it has left him in emotional and financial crisis but there isn’t anything she can do to help him.