Film unveils women’s strength

Unveiled examines the complex nature of human emotions.
Unveiled examines the complex nature of human emotions.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of boxoffice.com
Jasmin Tabatabai in Unveiled.
Jasmin Tabatabai in Unveiled.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of mmmfilm.de

The seventh annual reelout Queer Film and Video Festival concluded this weekend after enjoying great success. At the premiere of Unveiled, by German filmmaker Angelina Maccarone, seats were sold out and many viewers risked back pain by sitting on the floor just to see this engaging film. Unveiled follows the story of forbidden love, exile and the strength of one woman determined to be free.

Fariba Tabrizi (Jasmin Tabatabai) is forced to flee her home country Iran after she is discovered to be a lesbian, leaving behind her lover and family. She seeks asylum in Germany, where she takes on the identity of her deceased male friend, Siamak (Navíd Akhavan). Illegally, she begins working a low-paying job in a factory, where she meets Anne, a lovely German woman who finds herself falling for this quiet and gentle stranger, one who is so different from the other men in her life in a tiny town.

Fariba continues the façade of being a man, but as her feelings for Anne grow, she is faced with a most difficult decision: whether to give away her real identity and give up her chance of staying in safety, or pulling herself away from what could be the love of her life.

Homophobia is continuously present in the small town where Fariba seeks shelter as Siamak, and she risks further alienation than she has already experienced if she reveals herself to be a lesbian. Her inability to find security is a great worry for Fariba and she feels constantly exiled, both externally from her country, and internally from her own female mind and body as she steps into the role of a man.

Jasmin Tabatabai, who plays Fariba, shows incredible range in her acting skills, as she is in the difficult position of playing a woman playing a man, while maintaining her “feminine” qualities—qualities that catch the eye of her lover, Anne. Her performance as a man makes it easy for the audience to forget that who they are viewing is not actually a male character, as her movements and mannerisms seem naturally “masculine.” Tabatabai also transitions easily from male to female roles, as she switches between playing Fariba and her male half, Siamak.

Fariba’s inner strength and stamina last throughout the film. She is forced apart from her lover, threatened with death, and alienated from her home country, never demanding pity but only our admiration as she exhausts herself struggling through each great ordeal.

During her devastating experiences, Fariba conveys a consistent sense of hope, particularly in her uncompromising belief in life and love.

A superb supporting cast enhances this film, and the audience finds itself falling in love with Anne (Anneke Kim Sarnau), a kind, spunky young woman stuck in a town that is suffocating her, but one that she cannot leave.

Anne’s ex-lover and co-worker at the factory, Uwe (Hinnerk Schönemann), performs well as a racist and homophobe who cannot stand the sight of Anne falling in love with who he thinks is a Muslim man. His discovery of their love has particularly heartbreaking repercussions.

Director Angelina Maccarone, who also co-wrote the story of Unveiled, has previously directed films Kommt Mausi raus?! (1995) and Everything Will Be Fine (Alles wird gut) (1997). In Unveiled, she creatively brings together the forbidden love element of the story with a talented cast, and particularly beautiful and symbolic scenery. At Fariba’s stay at the airport in Germany, which is considered No Man’s Land, she waits to discover if she will be sent back to Iran. Maccarone continuously cuts from the woman to the desolate airport where planes are taking off, creating a brutal reminder for the character of her exile and lack of belonging, both in her home country and in Germany, where she seeks asylum. Although the love story is a prominent part of this film, Maccarone does not exploit it in such a way that it becomes pathetic or hopeless. The strength and integrity of the characters in love resonate throughout the entire film and do not diminish, even in the final scene where everything seems to fall apart for Anne and Fariba.

There is an unusual and interesting change in camera in this film, between an intimate, documentary style, and steady filming. The documentary style, where the camera appears to be another character moving and interacting with the others, is slightly unsteady. This technique emphasizes the instability and tension of these scenes, making them more memorable and emotionally involving.

The steady cam shows changing perspectives, as Fariba switches between being the focus of the camera lens and the camera, forming images of what she is viewing. In her most isolated states, where she is alone and exiled from everything familiar to her, the camera becomes a voyeur staring into her lonely life. In the moments of her focus on Anne, the camera becomes Fariba’s third eye, so that what is on the screen is what she is seeing and how she is seeing it, giving us an inside glimpse of her emotions at the time.

Unveiled is a moving but emotionally draining piece of cinematic art that enters the world of a woman ostracized by her forbidden love of another woman, who in turn is struggling to regain her faith that she will experience love again. It was a definite highlight of this year’s reelout festival.

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