BERLIN, Feb 8 (Reuters) - An Iranian drama exploring the
lengths to which people go to uphold the country's social
conventions has won warm reviews at the Berlin film festival,
putting it in the early running for prizes.
"About Elly" (Darbareye Elly), starring Iranian actress
Golshifteh Farahani as Sepideh, centres around a group of
middle-class Iranians who drive to the shores of the Caspian Sea
for a short break from Tehran.
Mischievous matchmaker Sepideh invites nursery school
teacher Elly, hoping that she gets together with divorced friend
Ahmad who is back in his native Iran from Germany.
Concerned that Elly's presence in the villa may raise
eyebrows, Sepideh tells the old woman letting the property that
the couple are newlyweds. It is the start of a long trail of
deception that eventually turns a happy holiday into tragedy.
Screen International critic Lee Marshall called About Elly
"one of the most remarkable Iranian films to surface in the last
few years", giving it four out of four stars.
The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young wrote: "'About Elly'
confirms director Asghar Farhadi as a major talent in Iranian
cinema whose ability to chronicle the middle-class malaise of
his society is practically unrivalled."
Farahani was singled out for her performance, although
reports said her involvement could mean the movie did not get
shown in Iran due to controversy caused when she appeared in
"Body of Lies", starring Leonardo DiCaprio, last year.
Farhadi said he wanted to make a film that was universal.
"What was important to me was that there should be something
universal, so everyone around the world could enjoy the film and
not just someone who knows about Iran," he told reporters after
the movie was screened on Saturday.
"To my mind, the kind of difficulties we encounter in Iran
are those we see in other countries as well."
Another popular film among the early entries in competition
at the Berlin festival, which winds up with an awards ceremony
on Feb. 14, is "Gigante" from Uruguay.
The movie tells the touching tale of Jara, a burly, shy
security guard at a Montevideo supermarket who becomes
infatuated with cleaner Julia, whom he watches on monitors
linked to security cameras and then follows obsessively.
The normally gentle giant is not afraid to use force when
necessary, and the viewer is left guessing about his true
intentions when he runs amok in the supermarket after learning
Julia has been sacked.
Actor Horacio Camandule said playing the heavy metal-loving
Jara had helped him overcome his own shyness.
"To come here (Berlin) is really something that would make
me very nervous, but now I feel a little bit less so," he told
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