It’s a place where gangs attack anyone who stands out, girls ride to school on horses and nights off are spent among the mesmerising lights of the fairground – while I Am Nasrine, the story of an Iranian teenager and her brother, begins with a classic story of repression in Iran, the stranger land is England, where the siblings go in the hope of a new life.
According to the director, Tina Gharavi, herself an Iranian expatriate, this is her “love-letter to the north east. The low-budget film was made using local community actors, including a traveller woman whom the production team approached after spotting her driving her horse and cart down a street.
The film, though, opens in Iran with Nasrine (Micsha Sadeghi) enjoying a ride on the back of her boyfriend’s motorbike. Despite the congestion and the mandatory headscarf she seems happy and free.
When the authorities pull the couple over, however, this impression is quickly dispelled. After a numb Nasrine is bailed out, her parents decide that the best option is that she and her brother Ali (Shiraz Haq) join the underground caravan of migrants crossing into Europe.
On arrival in Britain, however, Nasrine and her older brother must while away the evenings in a grey estate as they wait for a decision on their immigration application. Nasrine escapes this boredom when she finds a mentor in her schoolfriend Nicole (Nicole Halls) a traveller. Meanwhile Ali, the more conservative and withdrawn of the pair, faces up to facts that he has previously learned to bury deep inside.
One of the charms of this film is the way it captures northern working class culture but manages to avoid the over-used paradigm of industrial decline. The camera embraces the blurry rainbows of a fairground, the drunken party of a late night fast food joint and even the wonders of the heavy brass jewellery favoured by Nasrine’s adopted traveller family.
At the same time, the film does not shy away from the ugly side of this society, leaving the audience to ponder the difference between intolerance on the mean streets of Britain and theocratic Iran.
I Am Nasrine is not perfect – words are sometimes mumbled, the soundtrack occasionally undermines the seriousness of the themes and Nasrine’s reasons for leaving Iran could be more fully fleshed out. Nor will it please those who feel that Iran is already overly demonised as a reactionary religious state.
But those who get the chance to, should see it for its abundance of originality, honesty and heart – qualities that a big budget alone can’t buy.
I Am Nasrine is yet to find a distributor. For upcoming screenings or to request a DVD see the Facebook page [LINK:http://www.facebook.com/IAmNasrine%5D