Mercury Cinema, Sat 17 Sep.
An impending celebrity visit brings tensions to the boiling point at a San Francisco Bay Area Iranian community radio station in this charmingly droll play on Waiting For Godot, which screened at Mercury Cinema as part of the 10th Anniversary edition of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival.
As the collection of assorted characters at Pars Radio prepare for the arrival of real-life Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Famers Metallica, the viewer is invited into the world of Iranian migrants whose stories comprise the fodder for the station’s mostly talk format. From one listener’s story of improbably encountering a penguin in Towson, Maryland, to another migrant’s lamentation of lost family connections back home, the fictional station gives voice to the Iranian-American experience.
While the hook for this ‘day in the life’ story is an arranged jam session between Metallica and similarly real-life first Afghan rock band Kabul Dreams, the story focuses on the character interactions of the sparsely-budgeted community radio station’s staff, headed up by Iranian singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo, who stars as the disillusioned station manager Hamid Royani.
Himself a noted author in his homeland, Mr. Royani now struggles to maintain an interest in the operations of the radio station, coaching an amateur singer when not castigating his staff or obsessively applying hand sanitiser. As the day drags on with no sign of the metal legends, Royani begins to buckle under the strain of culture clash, identity crisis, and the friction between art and commerce.
Co-Writer and Director Babak Jalali’s camera lingers on faces, capturing conversations and monologues both on and off the air as the staff scramble to mitigate various pitfalls associated with the high-profile booking. The band members of Kabul Dreams all acquit themselves nicely as actors, and the ensemble cast effectively immerse the audience in the station’s high-stakes and low-budget drama.
Radio Dreams is highly successful as art, even if it succumbs a bit to melancholy down the stretch. The migrant experience is unflinchingly presented in all of its ambiguity and frustration, resulting in a frequently touching portrait, punctuated by the occasional laugh-out-loud absurdity.
Performed mostly in Persian, with some English and Assyrian passages, the film is accompanied by English subtitles.
Radio Dreams screens at Mercury Cinema, Morphett Street, Adelaide from 7pm on Sun 25 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and ozasiafestival.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.