The Septembers of Shiraz is not only a compelling movie but an important one to see. Based on the book by Dalia Sofer which recreated the experiences of her own family, the film is the only one I can recall dealing with the plight of Iranian Jews after the fall of the Shah and the takeover by Ayatollah Khomeini. Its contemporary importance is heightened by the recent agreement between the US and Iran and the threat that this poses to Israel and to the many middle-eastern Jews persecuted by Muslims in countries that were formerly hospitable to them. They all learned first-hand how brutal that persecution was - confiscation of wealth and property, imprisonment, torture, expulsion or death.
In a searing performance by Adrien Brody, the character of Isaac goes from that of a successful gemologist and jeweler to the Empress to a bewildered man imprisoned summarily and beaten into submission in an attempt to force him to divulge the whereabouts of his shady brother and his own fortune. His family is never told of his whereabouts or whether he is still alive and part of the story concerns their own travails. The faithful housekeeper who has been with them for many years begins to be influenced by her militant son who believes the propaganda that anyone with money has gotten it by stealing what rightfully belongs to the common, less fortunate man. In this case, forgetting the paternal kindness exhibited by Isaac when the housekeeper and her son were homeless and poverty-stricken, the son steals the jewels and furnishings of the business and threatens to further blackmail Isaac in a way that could prove fatal.
In a surprisingly sensitive role, Salma Hayek portrays an adoring wife and mother who has enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle but is now plunged into a state of uncertainty and fear for all their lives. She and her young daughter must adjust to the ongoing anxiety of not knowing where Isaac is or whether they will ever see him alive again. Though primarily known for her beauty, Ms. Hayek does a substantial acting job and is additionally credited as producer. At a time when there is so much discussion about American “Islamophobia,” this movie is a reminder of the very legitimate reasons for our fear. The images of dead bodies strung up along the main thoroughfare of Teheran, the brutality of guards placing a prisoner against a wall and using his body for target practice, the swift indoctrination of the populace into compliance with Islamic authority are all bold indictments of an aggressive ideology that should be feared. The pervasive anti-semitism that is endemic to this culture vividly illustrates why Israel is in trepidation of Iranian nuclear power. By using the travails of one family rather than a more general overview, the film allows us to experience the emotional spiral of despair these people underwent. See The Septembers of Shiraz - it will force you to confront some ugly and powerful truths and it will leave you both shaken and stirred.
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