Dir: AngelinaMaccarone. Ger-Aust. 2005. 97mins.
Using the premiseof a woman passing herself off as a man for political purposes, Unveiledmakes for an earnest and well-meaning, if at times rather humourless and lessthan imaginative, feature from film-maker Angelina Maccarone.
Closer in spirit toa didactic lecture rather than a dramatic experience, it follows a gay Iranianwoman seeking refuge in Germany. As such it should elicit sympathy wherever itis shown, enjoying largely receptive audiences at festivals (it competed atKarlovy Vary).
The film's strongestasset is Jasmin Tabatabai in the lead, her perfectly controlled performancetranscending the script's bumpier corners and pulling the audience on to herside. Fair theatrical potential will most likely be enhanced by extensivetelevision exposure, for this is an ideal item for any self-respecting arthouseprogrammer: note the success of the thematically similar Boys Don't Cryand Baran.
Fariba (Tabatabai),a gay Iranian translator of German escapes her country, symbolically leavingher obligatory veil in the airplane's toilet as it departs Iranian air space.
Reaching Germany,she is turned down for political asylum and in desperation assumes the identityof Siamak, a male refugee who committed suicide at news of his brother'sexecution back home. Moving into his temporary hostel, she is subsequentlytaken on as an illegal sauerkraut factory worker.
Complications comethrough having to share a hostel with men, as well as attracting romanticadvances from female co-worker Anne (Sarnau), who prefers the smooth-skinnedyouth to her gross German suitor, Owe (Schonemann).
When Fariba/Siamakresponds to Anne's advances - even overcoming Anne's resistance to a lesbianrelationship - the doubly insulted Owe reacts in style.
Fariba's plight isclearly and precisely defined, and the script ensures that every door thatopens for her along the way is then slammed in her face. She is a woman wholoves other women, an issue often tough to handle at the best of times. Thesituation worsens when she seeks refuge in a country that does not believe hersexuality merits asylum - even if the same fate awaits lesbians back home as itdoes political dissidents.
The simplermechanics of Unveiled's plot are less well defined and require theaudience to suspend too much belief, as when Fariba has to spirit the body ofthe real Siamak away or avoid her identity being revealed in the hostelshowers. Only Tabatabai's subtle restraint in the main role smoothes thosepassages over, making them if not credible then at least acceptable. Suchcriticisms are only partially justified: after all it is the message, not howit is conveyed, that matters here.
Working within theframework of a TV-scale production, Maccarone directs with a sure hand,underlining the grim, inauspicious surroundings at all times. One feature ofthe drab countryside is the airfield next door, which with its constant streamof plane departures acts as a constant reminder to the immigrants about beingsent back. Technical credits are adequate throughout.
MMM Film Zimmermann
Media Luna Entertainment
Anneke Kim Sarnau