Across-cultural drama about an Iranian teen in Hungary who finds out her dad is still alive back home, “Letters From Persia” is a fitfully interesting item let down by a poorly developed script and film school technique. Pic may travel minimally on its cultural authenticity, but otherwise is a mixed calling card for first-time feature director Rambod Lotfi.
Maria (Noemi Demjen), who was evacuated with her Hungarian mom (Kati Rak) at an early age at the start of the Iran-Iraq War, is now a first-year student at Budapest’s Economic Sciences U. when she discovers some letters proving her father is still alive in Tehran.
Home life isn’t much fun. Mom is having an affair with her boss, her slob uncle (Karoly Eperjes) can’t hold down a job, and her grandmother (Hedi Temessy) , though sympathetic, won’t confide in her. With the help of a friendly Persian studies prof, Maria heads out to rediscover her native country.
Film follows a well-beaten path of such stories, with Maria slowly adopting Muslim dress, fantasizing about Iran and her dad, and generally moping around a lot. Iran is presented as an idealized place of the imagination, and little attempt is made to explore the real differences and similarities between Iran and Hungary — the two countries that shape her identity.
As Maria, Demjen evinces a sulky beauty, but not much more. Other actors are OK, with Eperjes contribbing his standard Depardieu-like perf. Technically, pic is standard, with some pretty Iranian location footage.