A wobbly variation on the familiar theme of tradition-bound girls growing up in the 21st century, "Niloofar" applies a superficial approach to the potentially charged tale of a teen heroine being forcibly married off for money.

A wobbly variation on the familiar theme of tradition-bound girls growing up in the 21st century, “Niloofar” applies a superficial approach to the potentially charged tale of a teen heroine being forcibly married off for money. Although the depiction of an Iraniancommunity just inside Iraq is intrinsically fascinating, the determinedly paint-by-numbers filmmaking style and dramatization (by Lebanese-Canadian editor-turned-director Sabine El Gemayel and vet Iranian producer Fereshteh Taerpour) make for dull stuff onscreen. This will hamstring pic’s natural audience appeal as an exotic foreign item and feminist message movie, ensuring quiet fest and tube play worldwide.

As the daughter of village midwife Salmah (vet Iranian star Roya Nownahali), 13-year-old Niloofar (Mobina Ayenedar) is embedded in traditional ways, but modern-thinking family friend Banoo (Fatemeh Motamed Aria) wants to help home-school the girl and her friends. Meanwhile, powerful landowner Sheikh Abbas (Amir Aghai) promises Niloofar’s father (Sadegh Safai) property in exchange for the girl’s hand in marriage. But with Banoo’s urging and her uncle Aziz’s (Shahab Hosseini) help, Niloofar manages a rather miraculous escape that could only happen in the movies.

Niloofar

France-Iran

Production

A 3B Prods. (France)/Khaneh (Iran) production, in association with Crystal Films. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Jean Brehat, Rachid Bouchareb, Fereshteh Taerpour. Directed by Sabine El Gemayel. Screenplay, El Gemayel, Fereshteh Taerpour.

Crew

Camera (color), Bahram Badakhshani; editor, Bahram Dehghani; music, Fardin Khalatbari; production designer, Majid Lailaji; costume designers, Samira Sinai, Sara Khaledi, Jila Mehrjoui. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival (competing), Nov. 3, 2008. (Also in Montreal World Film Festival.) Farsi dialogue. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Roya Nownahali, Shahab Hosseini, Hengameh Ghaziani, Mobina Ayenedar, Amir Aghai, Sadegh Safai, Fatemeh Motamed Aria.

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