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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Maryam

Starring: Mariam Parris, David Ackert
Director: Ramin Serry
Rated: NR
RunTime: 87 Minutes
Release Date: April 2000
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Sabine Singh, Michael Blieden, Jason Nash, Shaun Toub, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Maz Jobrani

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

In 1979, some Iranian-Americans faced some of the same backlash of discrimination that some Arab-Americans have suffered after 9-11. MARYAM explores some of the American reactions while the hard-line Islamic regime in Iran was holding Americans hostage in 1979. The movie, written and directed with love and dedication by Ramin Serry, was made long before 9-11, but, because of the recent terrorist attacks, it now possess a special resonance.

The best part of the picture is the spunky and funny performance by Mariam Parris as Mary Armin -- her Persian name is Maryam. Mary is a high school student who resents but loves her strict father, Dr. Armin (Shaun Toub). No dating is one of his many rules. She is a great kid who chafes under the restrictions imposed upon her. Mrs. Armin (Shohreh Aghdashloo), her supportive mother, likes to slip her little suggestions on ways to get around the rules.

One day, her cousin Ali Armin (David Ackert) comes from Iran to live with them while attending college in the U.S. For a year now, Ali has been a strict Muslim. He hates the Shah with a passion while worshipping the Ayatollah Khomeini. The straight-laced Ali and the typical American teen Mary are like oil and water at first, not knowing how to deal with each other. Eventually he will be offered and will reluctantly accept the role of her chaperone.

Mary can't understand Ali's feelings toward the Ayatollah. "He calls the U.S., 'the Great Satan,'" she remarks to him in disgust. "The guy could lighten up a little." Since Ali believes that his leader has perfection of vision, he can't understand her flippant remark.

Some of the story concerns Ali and Mary's coping with America's increasing anger. But other parts deal with more traditional issues of family tensions. The plot contains a big family secret and even a secret within the secret.

There are a couple of problems with the script. Given the number of different incidents of discrimination that the Armin family suffers, you start to think of them less as a real family than as a broad representative of all Iranian-Americans. The Americans then, as we are today, were rightly upset about the events in the world. The movie makes the demonstrators against the Iranian hostage holders look silly and stupid by the movie's choice of archival footage. But these are minor quibbles. The film is powerful, accessible and funny. You won't miss its messages, but you'll be entertained as well. Let's hope we get to see all of these actors again soon, especially Mariam Parris, a very talented young woman.

MARYAM runs 1:27. It is not rated but might be PG-13 for brief language and mature themes and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

The film is playing in very limited release now in the United States. In the Silicon Valley, it currently has no booking scheduled, but the director hopes to have it released here in the next few months. Look for it.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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