Border Cafe

Director: Kambuzia Partovi

In addition to numerous awards around the globe and being chosen as Iran’s official submission into the Best Foreign Film Category for the 2006 Oscars, writer/director Kambuzia Partovi’s Border Café (or Café Transit as it’s known overseas) earned a Special Mention “For the positive portrait of the Iranian woman’s fight” at Mar del Plata Film Festival. Fereshtei Sadre Orafei gives a quietly powerful performances as Reyhan, who, after her beloved husband Ismael dies, defies the custom of becoming the second wife of his brother Nasser (Parviz Parastoei) so that he can look after the widow and her two daughters, and opts instead to run the family restaurant, along with the help of longtime waiter and friend Ojan (Esmaiel Soltanian). While not overtly rebellious or outspoken, Reyhan’s action as a woman running a business goes against Iranian law but the film is never an expressly feminist minded film but stands as a forward thinking nearly docudrama styled piece and as Robert Koehler pointed out in his review in Variety, “Orafei’s approach to her character isn’t as a doomed woman, but as a survivor.” While the opening and closing sections of the film feel a bit rushed and ambiguous, the film works best as an ensemble piece as Reyhan’s café, situated on the Iran-Turkey border becomes a favorite for travelers and truckers and a home away from home for a young Russian female who fled her country during wartime slaughter and a Greek trucker (Nikos Papadopoulous) who forms an attraction to the widow Reyhan. According to IMDB, however, “Iran’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance” censored the romantic scenes between the two. While Border Café is more thematically similar to the Fire, Earth and Water trilogy created by Deepa Mehta, at times it feels as though it belongs in the same company with films such as Volver, Chocolat or Antonia’s Line. Methodical, ponderous and a film that will definitely strike up post-viewing conversation, Partovi’s melancholy work is sure to open one’s eyes to the conditions for women in that particular part of the world and makes a wonderful inclusion as an Official Selection of the 2007 Scottsdale International Film Festival.