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In the Land of Brothers

Three members of an Afghan family start afresh as refugees in neighbouring Iran, only to find out that international fraternity is an elusive concept - from the 40th edition of Sundance

In their feature debut In The Land of Brothers, Iranian writer/ director duo Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi felt compelled through their own perspectives as liberal Iranians, to give voice to the experiences of Afghan refugees, marginalised by Iranian society. Iran hosts one of the largest Afghan refugee populations, including 2.6 million undocumented people. The quagmires of being an unregistered refugee is personified in the film’s Afghan protagonists, told in an interconnected triptych, each occurring a decade part from each other.

Editor Hayedeh Safiyari is at the helms. She famously worked with Asghar Farhadi’s on A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), amongst other films. In the Land of Brothers encompasses Farhadi’s reserved emotiveness, with an ability to tell personal life-changing occurrences which acutely articulate societal malaise. It does so without sermonising and clichés. Amirfazli and Ghasemi cinematic gaze is more picturesque, with a crisp and sharp cinematography consisting of numerous striking moments of Iranian everyday life juxtaposing the hardships endured by these individuals living in displacement.

The characters originate from the same downtrodden group of refugees introduced in the beginning, ones who escaped war-torn Afghanistan in the early 2000s. The stories are glimpses into their future, their trajectories in Iran with the permanent threat of deportation. A teenage boy is defenceless at the hands of a predatory Iranian police officer. Leila (Hamideh Jafariis) is a housekeeper for a rich family; she is unable to tell her bosses of the abrupt passing of her husband on their premises for fear of alerting the authorities. And lastly a father trying to break the news of the death of their son to his wife, who lost his life in the Syrian war after being recruited into the holy cause of Islamic martyrdom.

Amirfazil and Ghasemi interpret these experiences coherently with just the right balance of sentimentality, with fully fledged characters perfectly conveying their struggles of precarious, unrooted existences. People which in the eyes of Iranian law have no rights. Lives marred by the permanent threat of deportation. At times, the approach feels a little muted of perhaps sanitised, with the grittier aspects of the three stories omitted. An impressive debut, nonetheless. The intention of highlighting the lives of those relegated to the margins resonates loudly. This a situation experienced by millions living in displacement the world over.

In the Land of Brothers premiered at the 40th edition of Sundance:

By Daniel Theophanous - 23-01-2024

Daniel has contributed to publications such as Little White Lies, BFI, Tape Collective, Hyperallergic, DMovies and many others. A lot of Daniel’s work is focused on LGBTQI+ cinema and hosts a podcas...

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