A daughter’s strong stand in the face of parental pressure and tradition fuels Jamil Rostami’s vibrant, fable-like debut feature, “Requiem of Snow.” As Iraq’s first submission to the Oscar foreign-lingo films race, pic is notably from and about the country’s once-marginalized Kurdish community. Rostami’s film, however, is presented with a disparate stylistic approach and different social concerns than those of the Kurd’s most renowned filmmaker, Bahman Ghobadi. Oscar submission and Palm Springs fest appearance could boost deserving pic’s visibility on fest circuit and pique adventurous distrib interest.
Unlike Ghobadi’s nomads, the Kurdish characters in “Requiem” live in an ancient village of stone homes and buildings perched on the side of mountains at the Iraq-Iran border. After the children chant a poetic plea for rain, a long drought ends, seemingly portending a new season of hope.
Teenager Rojan (Shadi Veryani) is engaged to Jian (Masoud Yousefi), who’s working abroad to earn money for their marriage. But despite the fact that Jian is expected to return shortly, Rojan’s stern father (Mohyedin Veryani), nearly bankrupt as a result of the drought, demands Rojan marry wealthy local entrepreneur Faegh (Anvar Farajpour), who is more than twice her age.
As snows begin to fall, Rojan faces this unwelcome betrothal and is forced to drop out of school. Rebellious as she can be under the circumstances, Rojan is lured by a devious salesman, Saeed (Jalil Mohammad Veissi), to accompany him across a mountain to a neighboring village where she will supposedly meet Jian.
“Requiem” acquires the qualities of a dark fairy tale after Rojan finds out she has been tricked by Saeed and must escape from his clutches.
Using the light touch of a storyteller, Rostami focuses on how fable intersects with traditional life, and how an intelligent girl can upset male-dominated rules. He gracefully records the smallest of moments, while framing the characters with natural settings that visibly dwarf their quarrels.
Cast of non-pros is indisputably led by Shadi Veryani, who has conveys an intelligence above that of most of the locals. Without laying it on thick, the suggestion of a new, modern generation of women underlies the film.
Lensing, design and soundtrack are all firmly set in the artful Iranian tradition, with Fariborz Lachini’s mournful acoustic music leaving a haunting aural residue in pic’s wake.