Some may find this hard to believe, but Israel’s foreign-language Oscar submission for 2016 is largely in Farsi. If you see the film, Yuval Delshad’s Baba Joon, you’ll understand. This is a coming-of-age story that could take place anywhere; it just happens to occur on a farming coop in the Negev.
The family in Baba Joon emigrated from Iran to Israel. Patriarch Baba (Rafael Faraj Eliasi) started a turkey farm, constructing the buildings with his own hands. He had two sons, Darius and Yitzhak. Darius fled to America rather than work on the farm, so Baba pressed Yitzhak into service.
Now Yitzhak (Navid Negahban) has a son, thirteen-year-old Moti (Asher Avrahami). Moti is not much for turkeys, but he has a real knack for reviving dead cars. He wants to work as an auto mechanic when he is older.
Moti’s mother Sarah (Viss Elliot Safavi) is caught in the middle of this battle between ambition and tradition. Her task becomes even harder when Darius (David Diaan) shows up for a visit. Issues between the two brothers resurface and threaten to destabilize the entire family.
The story is semi-autobiographical. Writer/ director Delshad is the son of Iranian immigrants, and he grew up in a village much like the one in the film. (Baba Joon is a Persian term of endearment, typically used by a child toward a father.)
Likewise, many of the actors are Jewish and Iranian-born. Rafael Faraj Eliasi (Baba) and Asher Avrahami (Moti), both making their acting debuts here, are from the same small agricultural village in southern Israel.
“I looked for actors that would be Iranian and would share something in the characters I created,” Delshad explained. “The world they come from is the world of the story.”
The cinematography by Ofer Inov is stunning. Besides views of the Negev, you get an up-close look at what it is like to raise turkeys. The beak-clipping scene is particularly effective.
Baba Joon didn’t make the short list for the Academy Awards, but it won five Ophirs (Israeli Oscars), including best film. I recommend checking it out.
Theme: Different Dreams
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