By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
With fiery intensity and fierce anger, Houman Seyedi’s Sheeple begins with a stylishly presented sequence of seemingly chaotic violence. But amidst the violence, disturbing and haunting moments, the intense anger, and the steely ruthlessness lies a tale of sadness and heartbreak. This tremendous film which closed the first annual Iranian Film Festival in NYC makes some intelligent observations about nature versus nuture and the aftermath that need, violence and greed often leave behind. At the same time, it offers some hope for healing and redemption.
In Tehran, a family of drug dealers have reached a point where they must reap that which they have sown. Eldest son Shakoor (Farhad Aslani) holds a high position of power as a successful drug dealer, and thus is a “savior” of sorts to his community and family. Younger brother Shahin (Navid Mohammadzadeh), however, is considered the family’s loser and biggest disappointment. In an attempt to keep him out of major trouble, Shakoor has his brother working for him where he can keep a watchful eye on him. When a vicious rumor circulates about Shakoor and Shahin’s sister Shohreh (Marjan Ettefaghian), each brother seeks “justice” in his own way. This problem escalates, however, revealing some shocking truths which could threaten to destroy the family.
Written and directed by Houman Seyedi, Sheeple is not only the best film I have reviewed for the film festival, it is a movie that deserves much international attention and acclaim. Seyedi not only has a fantastic flair for presenting this dark and bleak world, he has a outstanding talent for developing his story and characters with a mix of subtlety and disturbing beats. He presents this portrait as a seemingly rotten apple that isn’t quite ruined to the core. As the story evolves, the genuine heart is revealed proving that humanity is not completely beyond saving.
The film features an assortment of outstanding performances with Farhad Aslani, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Marjan Ettefaghian, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, and Navid Pourfaraj standing out for their stupendous work. At this time, I do not have any information regarding the release of this movie in the US, but it is definitely a title one should remember. If one loves crime stories that shocks, but strikes some emotional chords, Sheeple is a film not to miss.