By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
For my second film, I selected one that has a more serious tone and explores a different culture in Iran. Hendi & Hormoz takes place on the Iranian island of Hormuz where a very impoverished, third world group of people struggle to thrive. The film follows a very young married couple who are quite naive and don’t seem to know exactly how to make their union work. It is a rather striking, moving, and emotional portrait of a people barely scraping a living, but doing the best they can with their limited resources.
Sixteen year-old Hormoz (Hamed Alipour) and thirteen year-old Hendi ( Zohreh Eslami) have just married. Though they are quite young and inexperienced, this arranged marriage demands that they carry on the responsibilities of adulthood and the expectations of their culture. The highly intelligent Hendi wishes to continue with her education, while Hormoz struggles to find steady work. In all honesty, though, their poor island of Hormuz has so many limited options of employment. When most of his attempts at legitimate work fails, Hormoz decides to work for a local criminal. Though the work can be quite harrowing, it does initially pay well. That is, until things go quite wrong.
Written and directed by Abbas Amini, who co-wrote with Hossein Farokhzadeh, Hendi & Hormoz is well-made and insightful film that offers a fascinating glimpse at a third-world culture of which many Americans are not aware. I did find it rather unsettling that such a young couple would marry, but that is the reality of the culture. Once I was immersed in this world, I soon left most of my judgemental feelings behind. Abbas Amini does an outstanding job presenting the story and does so very naturally and realistically that it felt like I was watching a documentary. The beautiful cinematography by
Ashkan Ashkani is so superbly composed that he captures all that is beautiful about the island, as well as the ugly side of living there.
Both Hamed Alipour and Zohreh Eslami are exceptional in their roles. They certainly perform well by capturing the expected awkwardness, bewilderment, and confusion that teens should feel as they are thrust into an adult world with not much of a safety net. As the film progresses, the two young actors begin to share a charming and lovely chemistry as their attraction and relationship blossoms. It is a rather beautiful relationship to behold and witness, and director Abbas Amini knows just how to create and capture these affecting moments.
The film has been circulating through various film festivals, and thanks to the programmers of the Iranian Film Festival NY, it has finally reached the United States. It is a remarkable and well-made movie that I highly recommend should it get some kind of public release, either theatrically or through streaming channels. Sadly, it is one of those films that could easily get overlooked by the general public, but it is a movie that needs to expand outside of its built-in audiences.