Clearly part of its appeal, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was set in a time and place that wasn’t ideal for a gay couple – the conservative Midwest in the 1960s. Forbidden love has been the staple of many romances as well as tragedies, so along comes this refreshing and interesting variation, ‘Unveiled,’ in which a Iranian lesbian lives in constant fear as an illegal refugee. The love that dare not speak its name has serious consequences and punishment in strict, orthodox Muslim culture.
Acclaimed on the film festival circuit, ‘Unveiled’ is the story of a young woman, Fariba ) Jasmin Tabatabai), prosecuted in Iran because of her love for a woman. She flees to Germany but her application for asylum is turned down which leaves her in limbo. Her desperate prospects are improved by the suicide of her fellow-inmate, a man named Siamak, who has received a temporary permit of sojourn just before his death. Assuming his identity, she is sent to a refugee camp near a small German village.
At first her survival seems to be assured, but the strain of maintaining her male disguise as Siamak in the cramped refugee quarters reveals the threat that a single mistake could blow her cover. In order to pay for forged documents, Fariba takes an illegal job in a sauerkraut factory, where she meets Anne, a working class German woman who goes out on a date with “Siamak” on a bet. The two grow close - indeed dangerously close for Farbia - as Anne begins to suspect her true identity.
Director, Angelina Maccarone, previously directed ‘Everything Will Be Fine’ (1997), which premiered at the Hamburg Festival and received numerous international film awards.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Jasmin Tabatabai has appeared in numerous films and TV movies. Among her finest performances are the award-winning ‘Bandits’ (1997), ‘No Place To Go’ (2000) and ‘Moonlight Tariff’ (2001). For ‘Late Show’ (1999), she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the German Film Awards
There are clearly similarities to the mistaken gender identity film ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (which won Hilary Swank her first Oscar) and sometimes ‘Unveiled’ can be quite powerful. Like Swank, this film depends on Tabatabai’s strong performance. Other times, the film feels like a TV melodrama on Lifetime. However, the cultural conflict (an Iranian in Germany), sexual oppression, and gay/lesbian survival (a lesbian from Iran) does make ‘Unveiled’ a fascinating watch. This is a thought-provoking movie and the very definition of why “foreign” films are important windows into other culture’s standards since the social and political freedoms we take for granted in North America is not necessarily shared in other parts of the world.
Add the ethnic romance and attraction with Anne, and the brutal small town and small-minded setting, and you have a potent little story that, like ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ can be difficult to watch but nevertheless unforgettable.