Born In Evin


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Born In Evin
"There's a simple and engaging directness to this documentary."

There's a simple and engaging directness to this documentary by Maryam Zaree that cuts through politics and history to present an emotional legacy in a way that makes it easily accessible even for those with little prior knowledge of the circumstances she is investigating.

These days, Maryam lives in Germany, but she was born in Iran and, more specifically, in the notorious political prison Evin. She lived there for around two years with her mum Nargess before she was "taken out" by her grandparents. When her mum was released, they fled to Germany - though her dad Kasra remained behind bars for several more years.

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Although Maryam has no recollection of her time in Evin, it represents a gap in her knowledge - a missing piece that she is determined to try to shine a light on, even though her mum is reluctant to talk about it. Her dad is willing to help but limited in his knowledge as he was incarcerated separately.

"Silence is a part of our history," Maryam is told as she tries to find political prisoners and children who, like her, were born behind bars, who are willing to speak to her. Her personal quest illustrates just how lasting the impact of events like this can be, even on children with no direct recollection of events. The "silence" makes itself felt in the relationships between parents and the next generation in ways that are hard to quantify but which have manifested themselves in everything from the children's romantic relationships to their choice of careers.

The very personal nature of the film does mean that the story becomes fragmented in places as Maryam finds herself picking up information piecemeal from various sources, and an outside eye might have given these sections a tighter edit. She also reaches for symbolism when, in fact, her raw openness about her feelings works perfectly well on its own. This is nonetheless a brave and tenacious directorial debut that offers a positive people-focused consideration of the trauma of the past.

Reviewed on: 10 Jun 2019
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The story of the family of director and actor Maryam Zaree, who sets out to investigate the circumstances of her birth in one of the world’s most notorious jails for political prisoners.

Director: Maryam Zaree

Year: 2019

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Germany, Austria

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