A strange brooding movie, “Nilofar in the Rain” sucks the viewer into a domestic drama of power plays, humiliation and revenge among exiled Afghanis. Filmed on a small budget, tyro writer/director Homayoun Karimpour knows how to make a virtue of necessity: Pic’s underlit interiors, with their queasy color balance, create a fetid atmosphere in keeping with the quasi-incestuous family machinations as a husband and father battle for the affections of the titular young woman. “Nilofar” should do well on fest circuit, but its dark obsessional mix of melodrama and ethnicity are unlikely to hook American auds.
Karimpour structures his film largely around the p.o.v. of his hero, Shapour, an Afghan expatriate in Paris. Shapour travels to Peshawar to find a wife among the large Afghan refugee community there, returning with lovely young Nilofar and her family.
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Things start to go wrong when Nilofar’s long-absent father arrives from America. A fierce, mythic, almost demonic figure, the father takes an instant hatred to mild-mannered Shapour and manipulates his now pregnant daughter into leaving her husband.
Distraught, Shapour weeps and begs for his wife’s return, pounding on her door, wracked by nightmares of himself giving birth, haunted by his father-in-law’s decree that the child be aborted. On a train he is reunited with a old flame (a Frenchwoman who also left him because of family pressure). When Nilofar finally decides to leave her father and return to him, Shapour, with the unwilling help of his ex-mistress, exacts a mortifying vengeance.
All the characters are alienated, cut off from any community, existing in makeshift approximations of family units. If the father’s malevolence seems rooted in lies and shady dealings, his great power derives from the gap he left in his family when he abandoned them. There’s something particularly apt in this vision of exile as dislocated soap opera.
Not too surprisingly, pic’s story mirrors its own process of production: Afghan expatriate Karimpour left Paris, where he’d been living since 1979, to shoot the film largely in Peshawar among Afghan actors and artists, themselves driven out by the Taliban.
Tech credits are primitive yet effective.