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Date of birth:
1959, Tehran, Iran
Cyrus Massoudi, Mitra Tabrizian
• Movie Review
Shahab Hosseini delivers a nuanced
Haunted by his past and with a
future sliding towards inertia, Gholam finds himself involved in the conflict of
a total stranger.
is the debut feature from award-winning Iranian artist and filmmaker Mitra
Tabrizian, in collaboration with Cyrus Massoudi.
Hosseini plays Gholam, a taciturn immigrant who
works as a minicab driver by night and mechanic by day in a garage owned by
kindly Mr Sharif (eminent Iranian actor Behrouz Behnejad).
At the cafe
run by his uncle, Gholam runs into a former colleague from his army days years
ago, who wants to entice him into some shady business, maybe to do with
politics. (The story takes place in 2011, during the height of the Arab
Hosseini, Nasser Memarzia, Behrouz Behnejad, Corinne Skinner-Carter
Shahab Hosseini delivers a nuanced
Hosseini, who deservedly won recognition for his intense
performance in Asghar
Salesman, offers a nuanced study in acting minimalism with this
melancholy portrait of a man living in exile in London, never quite beyond the
reach of his own troubled past. It’s a feature debut for Iranian
Tabrizian, whose background in still photography perhaps explains
the crepuscular cinematography.
world building is less convincing when it comes to the non-Iranian characters in
the story, such as a gang of skinhead thugs and a saintly old African-Caribbean
woman Gholam hopes to help. But less assured touches are balanced out by a keen
eye for the lonely anonymity of London’s streets, back alleys and strip-lit
convenience stores. (Source: The
Movies depicting the struggles of migrants from the Middle East into Western
Europe will remain important to film culture as long as the continent continues
to struggle with the moral ramifications of this phenomenon. It is even more
important that directors who straddle both cultures, like Fatih
Akin for example, get to tell these kinds of stories. This is
certainly the case for Mitra
Tabrizian, whose new film, Gholam, details the struggles of a
despondent and broke Iranian living in London.
Tabrizian’s film opens with a shot of the titular character
Farhadi regular Shahab
Hosseini, as effectively brooding as ever) glowering into the
rearview mirror of the London cab he drives, irritated with the callous
businessman in the backseat. When he’s not shuttling Londoners around the city,
Gholam is either working his second job at a garage with an intellectual fellow
expat (Amerjit Deu), or he’s hanging around his uncle’s
restaurant (his Aunt never wants him to pay, but he almost always insists), or
he’s talking with his worried mother on the phone in his small, bare apartment.
Gholam seems to be simply passing the days, troubled by a past in Iran that is
about to return to haunt him.
While Gholam has the potential to be a great story, that
potential unfortunately goes somewhat untapped. There appear to be two major
ideas at work in Gholam. First, there is the story of the challenges and tedium
the character must face as an immigrant in London. Second, there is the more
plot-driven narrative of mysterious characters from Gholam’s military past
surfacing in London.
The film is quite effective at exploring the
former idea, but falls short with the latter. The second narrative begins to
develop late in the film and never appears to grow or deepen. What’s more, it
never seems to effectively cohere with what seems to be the film’s main
preoccupation (the immigrant experience) into a dramatically sound whole. A
potential link could have been the interesting character of
Karima), Gholam’s young cousin who seems relatively
well-assimilated in English culture while maintaining a deep, powerful
connection with his Iranian heritage. Yet his fascination with Gholam’s past
could have been developed further as well.
A third sort of
half-narrative emerges in the film at some point: Gholam’s friendship with an
older lady and her younger relative. But this story feels inorganic and
saccharine in the larger context of the more serious issues the film wishes to
explore. With all of these narrative issues at play, Gholam’s content, while
grasping at interesting ideas, ultimately feels flat and confused.
Selected filmography of Mitra Tabrizian
- Gholam (2017)
Julianne Moore leads red carpet protest in Venice for jailed Iranian filmmakers
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