The hair-raising true story of a young Afghan actor caught up in a Catch-22 political limbo during a visit to the Hamburg Film Festival is movingly recounted in “Heaven’s Path.” After a painfully slow start that chronicles Jalil Nazari’s excited arrival in the Hamburg airport and first impressions of the West, film finally slips into gear when he is sent to a prison-like refugee camp in eastern Germany. As he shoots the film, Iranian documaker Mahmoud Behraznia provides the on-camera link between the stranded actor and the outside world. Some festivals may take umbrage at the way they (via Hamburg) are cast as a villain in this sad tale. However, pic’s sincerity in showing conditions in a Western refugee camp make it a must-slot for series dealing with refugees and/or Afghanistan.
Nazari was an Afghani laborer living illegally in Iran when he was cast as the lead in Hassan Yektapanah’s “Djomeh,” winner of a Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2000. The passport on which he traveled to Germany permitted no re-entry into Iran, while a return to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan after having worked abroad as a movie actor (a forbidden profession) could spell execution. The film fest washes its hands of him but, with Behraznia’s help, he finds a lawyer and applies for refugee status.
Meanwhile, he is sent to the camp, where he is faced with months and maybe years of a numbing wait in a row of metal prefabs without supplies or services. Nazari’s dignified courage sees him through, where others attempt suicide or go mad.