TIFF ’23: Motherland

In Motherland, writer/director Jasmin Mozaffari tells the story of Babak (Bahtash Fazlali), an Iranian immigrant who has found love in America in 1979. However, this is also a time when Iranians are viewed with suspicion on American soil. After accepting an invitation to meet his fiancé’s parents, he nervously attempts to connect with his potential in-laws.

Although the film clocks in at a mere 24 minutes, there’s an incredible amount of story that is communicated within her characters. Having based the film on story of her parents, Mozaffari clearly has a personal connection with the material and brings it to life with love and grace. Although Motherland is set in the late 1970s, it is a story that feels current and could take place at any era.

As an immigrant, Babak believes that he may have found a home in the US. He has an affection for American culture, especially film, and is happy with his friends. However, because of the tensions that surround him as an Iranian at the time, the racism that he experiences continues to make him feel alienated from his surroundings. As such, when he finally meets his fiancé‘s parents, he believes that he’s made to believe that he doesn’t belong.

Even so, its in these moments that Mozaffari creates some of the film’s most interesting moments. As he converses with his fiancé’s German father, he begins to find a kinship in their common experience. Both found themselves living in unwelcome environments and grappling with the fear of xenophobia. 

But this kinship only lasts so long. 

In these moments, Mozaffari reveals the complexity of the immigrant experience, especially during times of oppression. Having left their homes in search of another, they are often made to feel unwelcome by those who already live there. Drawn to US soil with the promise of the American Dream, their experience is frequently met with suspicion and disdain by those who fear the ‘Other’. In Motherland, Mozaffari brings that tension between homes to the forefront, revealing the toll that it can take on the souls of those who are simply looking to find a home in a new world

To hear our conversation with Jasmin Mozaffari, click here.

Motherland is now screening at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.

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