Thursday, June 01, 2017

Apricot Groves

Apricot Groves (ծիրանի այգիներ) (زردآلو نخلستان), dir. Pouria Heidary Oureh, 2016 Armenia, 80 min., in Armenian and Farsi (Persian) with English subtitles 👌
Friday, June 16, 9:30pm, Roxie Theatre: Bay Area Premiere

Apricot Groves
Frameline audiences already know that Iran, for all of its monstrously repressive policies in most areas touching on LGBTQ lives, is remarkably progressive in its acceptance of transsexuals — provided that they undergo gender reassignment surgery and then live heterosexual lives, post-transition. Apricot Groves deals with Aram (Արամ, “son of the sun”), a young man from the Armenian-Iranian community (outsiders to some extent in either country) who has lived much of his life in the United States, but who has returned to Armenia to get engaged to his girlfriend, and then to Iran for surgery. We begin and end with Aram being wheeled into the operating room; the balance of the film is a flashback to the whirlwind day of his arrival in Armenia, the engagement ceremony, and the road trip to the Iranian border, all accompanied by his older brother.

I found the film somewhat unsatisfying, first and foremost because almost throughout the film Aram looks stunned almost to the point of zombification, as if he’s just been whacked in the face with a two-by-six. He’s almost entirely running on auto-pilot. It’s difficult to get inside a character’s thoughts and feelings when you get the impression there’s nothing there at the moment but white noise. The character of the brother seems wonderful — far beyond accepting, he seems to be Aram’s greatest booster, making arrangements for all the logistical details of every facet of the journey — but most of their interaction seems to be saturated with emotional distance. At the end of the film, I felt I had barely scratched the surface of either individual, let alone of their sibling relationship.

Recommended especially for Armenian, Iranian, or particularly Armenian-Iranian audiences, but other viewers may find it a bit dull.

Facebook page (in English) • IMDb page

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