Heaven’s Path

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."

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.

Heaven's Path

Iran-Germany

Production: A Farabi Cinema Foundation/Mahmoud Behraznia production. (International sales: Farabi Cinema Foundation, Tehran.) Directed, written, edited by Mahmoud Behraznia.

Crew: Camera (color), Powell Colmes, Christopher Landerer, Ali Loqmani; music, Franz Schubert, Ingeburg Hansen. Reviewed at Fajr Film Festival, Feb. 6, 2002. Running time: 78 MIN.

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