When Judge Franck Tabouring last sang a song in public, all hell broke loose.
Chasing dreams. Finding hope.
One of the many reasons I adore foreign films is the fact that so many of them take universal themes and messages and then beautifully portray them onscreen through different, exotic cultures that manage to transport viewers like myself to worlds I'm still not familiar with or may not even fully understand. That's exactly why I can't think of anything more fascinating than cinematic experiences that manage to both entertain and instruct at the same time.
One film that perfectly matches the description above is Majid Majidi's acclaimed Iranian drama The Song of Sparrows, a heartwarming and at times quite humorous tale about an ordinary family man from the countryside who rediscovers himself via a series of coincidences that will show him a world he never thought existed and eventually guides him back to the only place he can find true happiness and hope: his own home.
Written by Majidi and Mehran Kashani, the film introduces us to Karim (Mohammad Amir Naji), a devoted family man who works on an ostrich farm in the Iranian countryside. It is there that troubles for Karim begin when his daughter accidentally loses her hearing aid. Worried about how she will be able to complete her upcoming exams, Karim tries his best to find her a new one, even though the lack of medical insurance and the high cost further complicate things.
Things get even worse when Karim unexpectedly loses his job. So, in a desperate attempt to keep supporting his family, Karim decides to head to Tehran, where he comes across a new job as a motorcycle taxi driver and soon finds himself caught in the middle of urban chaos. Even though he's not very far away from his home, Karim soon discovers that just a short ride on his motorcycle can lead him into a world so utterly different from the one he's used to.
What I absolutely love about The Song of Sparrows is the fact that Majidi's script is about so many things. On top of that, the film doesn't hide anything; it doesn't blow any smoke when it comes to delivering its messages, and its simple, peaceful plot is incredibly easy to follow. This is a soft, emotionally charged and occasionally witty foreign drama, and I admit I had great pleasure following Karim on his quest to care for his family.
Two things in particular really stood out to me in this film. The first one is the continuous contrast between hectic city life and the peacefulness of the country. I wouldn't go as far and say Majidi favors one to the other, but for Karim, the simplicity of the country obviously remains more appealing to him that all the gray he comes across in the city. That said, the fast-paced city life does eventually creep up his back and slowly starts to consume him, which has a negative impact on how he treats his family.
This also leads me to the second aspect of the story I enjoyed watching: the concept of a strong community and family loyalty. Majidi portrays this wonderfully through the relationship between Karim and his young son Hussein, who's determined to work as hard as he can to become a millionaire. Karim thinks it's ridiculous, until he finds himself in a position where his son's ambition to work hard actually makes him realize that chasing dreams is by no means a foolish idea.
I could go on and on, but revealing everything certainly won't do the trick. What you should know is that The Song of Sparrows delivers the goods in storytelling and acting, and that's reason enough not to miss it. It's worth checking out alone for Naji's amazingly honest and emotional performance in the role of Karim. He certainly owns this film, and he's the kind of guy you just want to keep on watching.
The disc comes with a solid 1.78:1 widescreen transfer boasting strong colors and an overall decent picture quality. No, you won't get Hollywood quality, but for a foreign drama shot mostly outside and during the day, colors and exposure especially add a lot of character to the film. The image is sharp, for sure, and that's what matters. Audio transfer passes the test as well. No complaints here. Be advised though that this DVD does not include any special features, which is a tad disappointing. I would have loved to see a short behind-the-scenes featurette or something along those lines.
The Song of Sparrows was Iran's 2009 submission for the foreign Oscar, and I can totally see why. It's a great tale about family, and I guarantee it will get you hooked in no time. Culturally rich, funny, and beautifully acted, this is one of these international treasures you simply have to see.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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