Radiograph Of A Family


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Radiograph Of A Family
"Although an intensely personal document, it's possible to see inside it, the bones of wider tensions in society." | Photo: Courtesy of Visions du Reel

The idea of a radiograph - showing the inside of something that reflects what has happened on the outside - is a strong metaphor Firouzeh Khosrovani's documentary, which considers the sociopolitical changes in Iran through the microcosm of her own family. The director offers a creative approach to the subject, using archive footage, home video and family photos, overlaid with her own observations (voiced via narration by editor Farahnaz Sharif) and imagined re-enacted conversations between her parents (played by Soheila Golestani and Christophe Rezai)   - a slightly stilted device at first but one which, as the film progresses, becomes increasingly evocative as we become more accustomed to it.

Firouzeh's parents represent two very different faces of Iran. Her mother Tayi - who the director notes married her radiographer father's photograph in proxy fashion while he was away studying in Switzerland - is a devout Muslim. Her father, Hossein, meanwhile, is both considerably older and has a much more secular outlook. Firouzeh articulates this internal conflict for Tayi as she moves to Switzerland to be with him - which like the back injury caused by a skiing incident - causes her considerable pain even if it is not immediately outwardly visible to the world. Pictures are crucial here, not just for what they depict but for the way they are taken, with Tayi expressing deep resistance to removing her hijab for a photographer.

When Tayi becomes pregnant with Firouzeh, the story opens out into another chapter as her parents move back to Tehran - though it is not the place that Tayi remembers. There, her mother becomes an strong believer in the rhetoric of religious sociologist Ali Shariati and, by steps, in the Iranian Revolution that was then on the horizon - and some prior knowledge of the fall of the monarchy would be useful going in, as the director doesn't do too much to fill in the blanks. Firouzeh does, however, capture a palpable sense of being caught between the realms of her father and her mother and the tension between them, with the power balance shifting from her Hossein to Tayi as her childhood went on. This idea of change is cleverly articulated by repeated shots of a camera drifting through a reconstruction of Firouzeh's Iranian home, as her father's favourite things - including a painting Tayi considers sinful - are gradually replaced by her mother's.

Although an intensely personal document, it's possible to see inside it, the bones of wider tensions in society and marriages of the time, with Firouzeh also giving a sense of how, despite everything, familial bonds are surprisingly resilient.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2021
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The director's dual portrait of her parents.
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Director: Firouzeh Khosrovani

Writer: Firouzeh Khosrovani

Starring: Soheila Golestani, Christophe Rezai, Farahnaz Sharifi

Year: 2020

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Norway, Iran, Switzerland


NDNF 2021
EIFF 2021

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