Wrong Station: Our Review of ‘Radio Dreams’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 30, 2017
Wrong Station: Our Review of ‘Radio Dreams’

It’s a big day in PARS Radio, supposedly. In Babak Jalali’s Radio Dreams, a San Francisco-based pan-Persian language station booked the band Kabul Dreams. Kabul Dreams, by the way, is a real Afghan rock band who are here in this movie as themselves. The program manager who booked them is Hamid (Moshen Namjoo), also serving as the film’s main character. He also gets to interview the winner of a Miss Iran beauty contest Leila Sharestani (Sharestani plays herself). But Hamid’s big plan is the get Kabul Dreams to jam with Metallica live in his little radio station.

A more conventional director would have played this scenario up, taking place in a shiny office space. But instead of exaggerating these factors, Jalali chooses the polar opposite and downplay the frantic nature of what’s happening. It’s one of the poor decisions that he and his cast and crew make in his film. The audience also sees the film through the most dour shades of blue. It supposedly reflects Hamid’s perpetual mind state during these course of events. Depression is a hard thing to pull of in films, and here we see it veer into aimless misanthropy. It’s not an enjoyable presence to be around with for the 90 minutes of the film’s running time.

There’s also miscalculated attempts at humour here. Hamid is a clean freak. He, for example, uses hand sanitizer on his steering wheel. Jalali also overpopulates the film not even with b-plots but c and d-plots. One of these minor story lines involve Hamid making the station owner’s son sing a Russian folk song. That’s because Hamid planned segment about that country’s space program. They do that while the station owner insists that his son learn wrestling. This plot in the film takes too long to make sense. And the supposed emotional pay off for it unfortunately falls flat.

Hamid didn’t want to be a radio programmer- he instead was and still wants to be a novelist. He and the the radio station is symbolic of the contradictions within the adult immigrant experience. That’s one of the film’s merits. There’s the artist selling out and dealing with culture clash and culture shock. And he surrounds himself with people who experience the same things and deals with them differently. We immigrants pick and choose as he does. And we have to keep this in mind while and before judging him. It’s also hard to tell someone to be grateful for something they dislike.

However, it’s equally hard not to judge Hamid, as the film centres on his thinning patience as the day continues. But he’s working in the arts instead of working dead end jobs. That’s what my immigrant father and I had to do for a while to support ourselves. It’s also difficult to understand his gripe against advertising, which is a necessary evil in the media. He takes on his frustrations on the advertisers, the guests, and the station owner’s daughter (Boshra Dastournezhad). He and the film disregard the gender dynamic between them which is one the the film’s many sour notes.

This post was written by

While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.