Inspired by true events, Aban and Khorshid is an intimate portrait of two lovers, glimpsing into the world in which they met, moments before their execution for being gay.
There are few movie experiences that can profess to being as tender as they are brutal, however writer/director Darwin Serink manages to strike this balance masterfully and to heart-breaking effect. With the use of what could be a tired storytelling trope, Serink wisely uses the flashback tool as a means of leading us to an outcome we know is coming. In doing so, every tender moment is laced with foreboding.
Focusing on the titular couple, Serink encourages us to invest in their lives together. Their easy comfort and intimacy create an innocence and warmth around them that immediately puts us on edge. We know we are on a countdown to that intimacy being violated and that innocence being defiled by the brutality of a world that refuses to accept the legitimacy of their bond. These moments are sold wonderfully by Mojean Aria as Aban and Bobby Naderi as Khorshid. Their natural chemistry with each other does much of the heavy lifting of getting the audience to buy into their relationship. Additionally, Mojean Aria embodies such vulnerability as Aban, which plays into the self-assured confidence that Bobby Naderi fuses into this portrayal of Khorshid, allowing him to show a serene type of strength, which Aban relies on more and more as things edge closer and closer to their inevitable outcome.
There is an implied cultural commentary, telling the story of two Iranian men and intentionally highlighting the fact that homosexuality is still illegal in many countries around the world and punishable by death in at least five of them. This runs the risk of potentially adding this film to the list of negative portrayals of non-western (particularly Middle Eastern) countries, but the broader global spotlight exposes just how widespread an issue the criminalisation of homosexuality is. As such, the message of how violent the refusal to accept love in all its forms can be, hits like a freight train. Even in countries where homosexuality is no longer a crime, we are reminded that despite the progress that has been made, societal rejection is still a very real threat to people from this community and that rejection can come in many forms – often violent ones.
While the story is inspired by real events (which are highlighted at the end of the film) the story itself is still fictional and as such Serink’s role as writer and director allows him to take the time and liberty he needs to ensure that the audience sits in those key precious moments with Aban and Khorshid. Every gesture, laugh or moment of fear is presented with such heart that the audience, no matter where they fall on this topic cannot escape the fact that there are human beings on the business end of society’s worst attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community.
This film is sensitively handled and beautifully constructed. Serink directs Aria and Naderi to moving performances, which ultimately carries home the tragedy and injustice that remains a sad reality in too many places in the world. The film having been made by western filmmakers can also be taken as a reminder not to sit on our laurels. In light of what were thought to be previous protections in law suddenly being reversed, namely the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, Aban + Khorshid reminds us of where any of our societies might end up if we do not remain vigilant in our protection of hard-won rights for all of our fellow citizens no matter their backgrounds.
Studio: Rude Truth/Delirio Films/Come What May Productions | Year: 2014 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 19 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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