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Originally published October 7, 2010 at 3:02 PM | Page modified October 7, 2010 at 4:55 PM

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Corrected version

The Iranian film "Heiran" will not be playing at the Uptown in Seattle, as of Oct. 7. The screening was canceled after publication of this review.

Movie review

'Heiran': A soapy, enlightening look at immigration, star-crossed love in Iran

"Heiran," directed by Iranian filmmaker Shalizeh Arefpour, tells the mawkish but socially enlightening story of an Iranian girl and Afghani boy who marry and suffer the consequences of his status as an illegal immigrant.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Heiran,' with Baran Kosari, Mehrdad Sedighian. Directed by Shalizeh Arefpour, from a screenplay by Arefpour and Naghmeh Samini. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences. 88 minutes. In Persian, with English subtitles.

The largely unspoken backdrop for "Heiran," a soapy but enlightening feature debut by Iranian filmmaker Shalizeh Arefpour, concerns the displacement of millions of Afghanistan's workers during the years of Taliban rule and subsequent near-decade of war.

Many of those Afghanis became illegal immigrants in nearby Iran. In "Heiran," Arefpour eschews the big picture of that regional phenomenon for a narrower focus on immigration issues upending the lives of two lovers.

Cupid strikes Mahi (Baran Kosari), a high-school girl whose crop-growing family ekes out a living in southern Iran, and Heiran (Mehrdad Sedighian), an Afghani student working there without papers. Mahi's father fiercely opposes their romance, forcing Heiran to leave for Tehran.

Mahi impulsively follows and they marry. But visa problems mount for Heiran, and a headstrong Mahi becomes overwhelmed by an unsympathetic government as well as her family.

"Heiran" begins as a story of star-crossed lovers, complete with tinkling piano on its score and adorable moments of courtship. But Arefpour builds up this fairy tale so she can knock it down, showing how even sympathetic newlyweds can be stripped of hope, treated like criminals and torn asunder in this world.

The point is effective, though the story paints itself into a corner with the mawkish particulars of Mahi's misery. Arefpour relies too much on a teenage character's shortsighted passions to stand in for the audience's broader experience.

By the time Mahi makes a last, desperate stand, one's heart might still be with her, but not necessarily one's head.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

The Iranian film "Heiran" will not be playing at the Uptown in Seattle, as of Oct. 7. The screening was canceled after publication of this review.

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