Elevate Difference

ARUSI Persian Wedding

In ARUSI Persian Wedding, Marjan Tehrani trails her brother Alex and his wife Heather as they prepare to wed in Iran. In fact, the couple is wed twice in the film—making it thrice in total. One wedding is in preparation—so they may travel as husband and wife—and the traditional ceremony that ends the film, which is the point of the documentary, is the couple's second on-screen wedding.

Tehrani touches ever-so-briefly on themes that would have given the movie more impact had they been explored further. Homecoming is a central theme of the movie, but its possibilities and consequences are not explored in depth. The insider-outsider dilemma that haunts immigrants who return to their country of origin and the responses from those left in Iran is not touched in the film.

Tehrani incorporates historical footage and explanations of the past into the narrative as a way to broach some of the political tension in the film. A few possibilities for firestorms rise, but pass quickly, left only as a footnote. The first time Heather meets Alex’s parents they argue briefly about the relationship between Iran and the Bush Administration. Later in the film, Alex speaks with an Iranian newspaperman about some of the country's political issues: freedom of the press and the inevitable question of Iran-US relations. Mostly, the issues of politics and restrictions are not addressed; they are consciously skirted and barely analyzed. Instead, it is the heat that is blamed for the irritation and discomfort.

Women’s issues are mentioned briefly when the couple encounters an all-female tourist group (which the viewer is led to believe is Iranian, though this is never entirely confirmed or denied) at an Iranian resort town. The tourist group is the only interaction the filmmaker includes with women who are subjected to the rules of Iranian culture and laws of the country. This was an opportunity for Tehrani to take a deeper look at what it means to be a woman in Iran; however, the presentation is vapid because she and Heather are unable or unwilling to push beyond simply getting a few young women to say they would rather live in the US. They are not questioned further, but their peer who responded that she would remain in Iran was: her answer was to remain in her homeland.

ARUSI Persian Wedding was different from what I expected, which colored how I saw the film. It paints a cotton candy picture in the aesthetic of a stylized home movie, utilizing old reels of Marjan's and Alex’s mother that, when narrated by Marjan's encouraging and optimistically pensive voiceover, that lend it a campfire atmosphere. Tehrani missed many opportunities to educate or tell a more complete story throughout the film, and ultimately, it felt like an unfinished product.

Written by: Elisheva Zakheim, May 21st 2009