"Love Iranian-American Style" catalogs filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian's all-over-the-map reactions to her Jewish-Iranian family's obsession with getting her married. The film profits greatly from Eshaghian's disconcerting honesty as she ruefully bares her jumbled thoughts and unavowed prejudices.

A wryly entertaining first-person account, “Love Iranian-American Style” catalogs filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian’s all-over-the-map reactions to her Jewish-Iranian family’s obsession with getting her married. The film profits greatly from Eshaghian’s disconcerting honesty as she ruefully bares her jumbled thoughts and unavowed prejudices. The relaxed warmth with which extended family members, ex-boyfriends and potential suitors share their views with the ubiquitous camera only adds to the absurdist mayhem. Sure to be welcomed at fests and on cable, the hour-plus docu, if paired with a like-themed, like-spirited short pic, might generate some niche theatrical interest of the “My Big Fat Iranian Wedding” variety.

Bi-coastally split between the strong ethnic heritage of her California “Irangeles” kinfolk and her quasi-bohemian existence as a Gotham filmmaker, Tanaz’s cultural schizophrenia crystallizes around the snowballing question of marriage. She has dated (and occasionally cohabited with) exclusively non-Iranian, American guys, with the tacit support of her college-educated mom.

But now that Tanaz has reached the dangerous age of 25, her hitherto understanding mother panics and strives to set her up with potential suitors in the traditional Iranian-Jewish mode of arranged marriages. Tanaz sometimes agrees, treating unsuspecting blind dates to baldly confrontational interviews as they expound shockingly un-hip views on the difference between girls you have fun with and those you marry.

Meanwhile, old boyfriends, searched out and interrogated on-camera about why their relationships ended, reveal that Tanaz’s very Iranian fixation on long-term commitment sabotaged any organic emotional development, right from the outset. Too American (read non-virginal) for Iranians and too Iranian (read goal-oriented) for Americans, Tanaz starts to feel too “weird” to ever find a mate.

The slapdash immediacy of Eshaghian’s cinematic quest increasingly reflects back on the director herself, as she tapes married cousins, affianced brides, hapless dates, her grandmother and, continually, intimately, her mother.

Her mother’s acceptance of her daughter’s unwed state has been the only thing that made the not-too-subtle ribbing of the rest of the community even bearable (“Just think — you could already be divorced by now,” quips an uncle). But when her mom begins to push for an arranged marriage, Tanaz vacillates.

Collapsing in helpless laughter when a suitor’s $10 million house is held up as an incentive, Tanaz nevertheless cannot entirely resist the lure of a done deal or escape the materialistic mindset of her community.

Pic’s ironically colored throughline unites the several disparate parts (some used in helmer’s earlier documentaries), filmed over a period of years.

Love Iranian-American Style

Production

A Forties B production. Produced by Tanaz Eshaghian. Executive producer, E. Ike Eshaghian, Alexandra Kerry. Directed by Tanaz Eshaghian.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Tanaz Eshaghian, Taima Smith, Kenny Krauss, Michael Hansen; editor, Jonathan Oppenheim; sound, Tony Volan; supervising sound editor, Danny Pagan; associate producers, Taima Smoth, Anahita Riazi. Reviewed at New York Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 25, 2006. Running time: 63 MIN. (English, Farsi dialogue)
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