In southwest Iran, near the Iraqi border, a resourceful 16-year-old baggage porter becomes smitten with a slightly older Iraqi who’s not what she seems in Iranian helmer Rouhollah Hejazi’s bittersweet drama “Among the Clouds.” Named best Iranian feature debut at the recent Fajr Film Festival, this tale of deception gains nuance from the contrast between the cast’s sole professional (actress Elnaz Shakerdoost) and its many nonpros. Recalling the harsh humanism of early films by Majid Majidi (who mentored the 29-year-old director), low-budget but high-quality item should be welcomed at international fests.
Likeable orphan Malek (Younes Ghazali) works with a group of lively youths operating pushcarts that assist Iraqi tourists and pilgrims entering Iran. He’s spotted Farsi-speaking Noura (Shakerdoost) before, as she frequently crosses the border as a fixer for other Arabs. After Malek helps her solve a transport problem, unscrupulous Noura makes the adoring lad a patsy in an illegal scheme. Perfs by the two leads are compelling, with newcomer Ghazali’s open face conveying a sea of emotion. Lyrical cinematography and a haunting score stand out among strong tech credits.