New Afghan Film “In the Land of Brothers” Wins Sundance Prize
Distinguishing itself from other immigration narratives by telling a story set in an overlooked part of the world, “In the Land of Brothers” introduces two distinctive new filmmakers in Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi. Their feature debut, which recently won the directing prize in Sundance’s World Dramatic competition, follows the 20-year odyssey of an extended family from Afghanistan as they search for shelter and home in neighboring Iran after the American invasion of 2011.
The film, divided into three vignettes, takes place in Iran at different times, each coinciding with a significant historical milestone in Afghanistan. The first section is set in 2001 and follows a sensitive teenage student named Mohamed, who is forced into free labor by Iranian police due to his immigrant status. He also develops a sweet flirtation with another teenager named Leila. Ten years later, Leila, now a mother, grapples with grief while trying to avoid the Iranian authorities as an illegal immigrant. The final part of the film focuses on Leila’s older brother Qasem, as he deals with another loss and hopes to settle legally in Iran with his family.
Amirfazli and Ghasemi’s script is economical in dialogue but packed with dramatic plot twists. The script effectively captures the characters’ range of emotions, including fear, love, grief, and anxiety, which is brought to life by the talented cast. Though the actors are identified as non-professionals, Mohammad Hosseini, Hamideh Jafari, and Bashir Nikzad deliver powerful performances that carry the weight of the film.
Using a combination of distant long shots and intimate closeups, the filmmakers skillfully showcase the harshness of the terrain and the emotional depth of the characters. The film’s setting in three different eras, with historical context subtly heard in the background, adds to its authenticity and allows the camera and actors’ expressions to tell the story.
“In the Land of Brothers” captivates audiences with its compelling storytelling, memorable performances, and visually stunning cinematography. The film sheds light on the often overlooked experiences of Afghan immigrants in Iran, offering a unique perspective on the challenges they face in their search for a new home.
As this powerful film continues to garner critical acclaim, audiences can look forward to witnessing the rise of these talented new filmmakers, Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi, and their impactful storytelling.