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Farshad Hashemi Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others Review


Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others | 2024 International Film Festival Rotterdam Review

Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others | 2024 International Film Festival Rotterdam Review

Camera Crew: Filmmakers Become Family In Farshad Hashemi’s Quietly Defiant Meta-Movie

Farshad Hashemi Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others ReviewThe problem with being lonely isn’t being alone, it’s how easy it can be to accept once you’re sunk in its grip. The very thing you need to shake the feeling — meeting people, seeing friends — can be the last thing you want to do when you’ve become used to sequestering yourself from the world. Sometimes it takes the unexpected to break the cycle and in Farshad Hashemi’s modestly ambitious and gently charming directorial debut Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others, it’s a scrappy film crew that sparks a much needed connection. Not quite an ode to the power of cinema, ‘Maryam’ is instead a celebration of its community of creators and the intimacy of the close knit makeshift families they create.

It’s late summer in Tehran, and a film crew has descended on the apartment of Mahboube (Mahboube Gholami) for one week to shoot a short film. Production manager Farshad (played by the director, who also co-wrote the script) assures her they’ll be respectful of her space and stipulations, but things get off to a rocky start. The front door to her building is left open, her grandmother’s treasured mug is left at the bottom of a sink piled with dishes, and she discovers a treasured book with coffee rings on the cover. Mahboube doesn’t want to be a nag to the overworked but ever patient Farshad, but the demands she’s asked to carry soon include allowing crew member Navid (Navid Aghael) to stay overnight to guard the camera equipment and prevent it from being stolen. It’s an abrupt shift from the tranquil life Mahboube is used to, but she needs the money.

Farshad Hashemi Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others Review
The usually solitary Mahboube is a sculptor who teaches children when she isn’t working on commissions. But as the crew gets their bearings, and filming gets underway, little by little, she allows herself to become integrated into their world, sharing meals and jokes and opening up to friendships with Farshad, Navid, and lead actress Zahra (Zahra Aghapour). As production continues, she learns that the picture, chronicling the breakup of a couple, is based on the director’s own story. And even though the budget is meager (the actors aren’t even being paid), the cathartic process of working on the project is providing a break from the pains and losses in their own lives and allowing them, in some small way, to come to grips with them too. It seems like a simple revelation, but Mahboube comes to realize that her own private sufferings aren’t unique, and there’s healing to be found in the company and kindness of strangers.

Deftly weaving the quotidian concerns of making the film-within-the-film with the tangle of relationships amongst the crew, Hashemi works a deft balance between the two, and as the story progresses they easily dovetail together. As everyone bangs around the confines of Mahboube’s apartment and backyard, the film never feels cramped thanks to the airy and warm work by cinematographer Davood Malek Hosseini. There’s a welcoming looseness to the film, one whose hangout vibes belie something flintier underneath.

Farshad Hashemi Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others Review
Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others is also a quiet act of defiance. Last summer, Mohammad Khazaie, the head of Iran’s Cinema Organization of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a warning that the government would “cut ties with anyone who, for any reason, works with smuggled and unlicensed films in Iran and abroad.” The timing of the statement, coming just before the picture was set to screen in the Cannes Marché du Film, didn’t seem to be a coincidence. Hashemi’s “unofficial” film boldly ignores Iran’s censorship rules both in form and content. Not only does Mahboube not wear a hijab, as women are obliged to pass censors, it’s slowly revealed that she brews bootleg wine (a common, but illegal practice) to help make ends meet. A character offhandedly recommends Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, a film that can only be viewed via piracy as Netflix is officially banned in the country. And even the core of the film, chronicling the emotional landscape and life of a single woman and artist trying to find herself while navigating a society in which rights and freedoms for women are still a battleground, doesn’t seem designed to endear itself to a government stamp of approval.

In this way, Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others quietly unfolds a cross sectional portrait of Iranian life all from the confines of Mahboube’s humble home where two cameras are rolling — Hashemi and Farhad’s — revealing truth at 24 frames per second.

Reviewed on January 30th / 2024 International Film Festival Rotterdam – Tiger Competition section. 102 mins.


Kevin Jagernauth is a Montreal-based film critic and writer. Kevin has written professionally about music and film for over 15 years, most prominently as Managing Editor of The Playlist, where he continues to contribute reviews, and he has recently joined The Film Verdict as a Contributing Critic. Kevin has attended and covered a wide range of festivals including Cannes, TIFF, Fantasia, Savannah, and more. On a consultative basis, Kevin provides script coverage for feature-length independent and international films. He is also the co-founder and co-programmer of Kopfkino, a monthly screening series of cult classics and contemporary favorites that ran from 2017-2020 in Montreal.

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