New Life for an Iranian Boy Seeking Refuge From War - "Bashu, the Little Stranger" Review

By Janet Maslin The New York Times

Airborne danger hovers over the 10-year-old title character of the Iranian film "Bashu, the Little Stranger," but it changes as radically as the young boy's surroundings do. He is at the Persian Gulf as the film begins, experiencing the terrors of an Iraqi air raid (the film has silhouetted warplanes flying behind its opening titles) and watching in anguish as the bombing kills his parents and destroys his home.

Airborne danger hovers over the 10-year-old title character of the Iranian film "Bashu, the Little Stranger," but it changes as radically as the young boy's surroundings do. He is at the Persian Gulf as the film begins, experiencing the terrors of an Iraqi air raid (the film has silhouetted warplanes flying behind its opening titles) and watching in anguish as the bombing kills his parents and destroys his home. After this, Bashu stows away on a northbound truck and winds up in a greener, more peaceful part of his native land, where the greatest danger comes from birds of prey.

This small, simple and quietly effective film by Bahram Beyzaie shows how Bashu finds his way into a new family. Found in a field by a good-hearted mother named Naii (Susan Taslimi), the wary Bashu (Adnan Afravian) is at first afraid. He is also stymied by a language barrier separating southern and northern Iranian dialects, and is shunned by Naii's neighbors for being much darker-skinned than they. The neighbors are relatives who are, above all else, nosy, and they pay frequents visits to Naii's household to observe the boy and dole out free advice. "Bashu, the Little Stranger," which has been beautifully photographed by Firouz Malekzadeh, holds few surprises but has a good deal of warmth. Miss Taslimi, prone as she is to extravagant, earthy gestures, makes a strong and affecting presence, and the film's scenes of village life are vivid. The film, which has few dramatic developments, contrives a few illnesses and pays visits to the local marketplace and the village letter-writer. With the latter, Naii's drafts a letter telling her absent husband about Bashu. ''He eats less than he works,'' the letter says.

"Bashu, the Little Stranger" has little to say about war after its opening sequence, but it aspires to a primitive mysticism in some of its later scenes. The figure of Bashu's dead mother simply becomes part of village life, appearing occasionally to walk near Naii's and watch over her son. And Naii's' husband displays a similar haunting quality when he at long last appears. This may be the only film whose happy resolution takes the form of a family uniting euphorically to chase away a wild boar.

Originally Published September 14, 1990



Copyright © 2006-2010 Firouzan Films. All rights reserved.