A well-acted piece centering on a refugee Afghan family living in Iran with an ailing matriarch that naturally if solemnly captures their predicaments.
Dir. Jamshid Mahmoudi
2018 | Afghanistan/Iran | Drama | 89 mins | 2.39:1 | Persian & Dari
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language
Cast: Mohsen Tanabandeh, Mojtaba Pirzadeh, Fatemeh Hossein
Plot: Azim, an Afghan refugee, who works at the municipality at night, lives in Tehran along with his family. Amid a major conflict with his younger brother, Azim finds out that their mother is ailing.
Awards: Won Kim Ji-seok Award (Busan)
International Sales: Noori Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed at Singapore Film Society screening)
The winner of the Kim Ji-seok Award at Busan, Rona, Azim’s Mother is already the Mahmoudi brothers’ third feature film. Swapping directing and producing credits with each film, Jamshid takes on the director’s role here, while Navid serves as producer.
All three of their films—the other two being A Few Cubic Meters of Love (2014) and Parting (2016)—have represented Afghanistan as the country’s official submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, which is quite a feat. It is, however, no surprise as the Mahmoudis’ take on the Afghan refugee experience over the years continues to reap the rewards.
Rona is the story of a family whose ailing titular matriarch desperately requires a life-saving kidney transplant. One of her two sons, Faroogh, has already left (illegally) for Germany with his own family to seek a better future, leaving Rona with Azim, the older brother who feels guilty for leaving his mother with his financially-struggling younger brother for so long.
This is a well-acted piece and shot with such naturalism that the solemn reality of the family’s predicaments becomes quietly palpable. The title is a misnomer (though it is certainly more marketable than ‘Azim, Rona’s Son’) because this is really about Azim, who is a maintenance worker toiling the night shift, and who must make painful decisions for himself and his loved ones.
Ultimately, the film is a call for us to reflect on our own lives—are we really doing enough for our family?