Human Rights Watch Festival 2020: Our Review of ‘Born in Evin’

Human Rights Watch Festival 2020: Our Review of ‘Born in Evin’

There are some traumas that go unspoken for years, even when the emotional scars are plain to see. The silence may offer a shield from the piercing memories of the past, but it also has an unexpected ripple effect. Generations can grow up not knowing the full extent of their culture’s history. A fact that weighs heavily on the mind of actress-director Maryam Zaree throughout her documentary Born in Evin.

The title of the film refers to the notorious Iranian political prison where Maryam was born. A fact that she did not learn until she was 12 years-old. She knew that her parents were activists who stood up against a regime that stifled freedom of speech. However, what happened in Evin when her parents were arrested, her mother Nargess was pregnant at the time, remained a mystery.

Determined to find the missing pieces to her family’s history, Zaree embarks on a journey of self-discovery. One that proves much more difficult than she anticipated as it quickly becomes apparent that few people are willing to speak openly about the horrors of the past.

Born in Evin does a solid job of showing the lingering impact of trauma. As Zaree slowly chips away at the wall of silence that has become an inherent part of Iranian culture, an intriguing tale of perseverance unfolds. Each new story of torture and injustice that Zaree hears adds new perspective to the achievements that the survivors of Evin, and their children, have since amassed.

Unlike the inaccurate portrayals of Iranians Zaree must play on television, Born in Evin brings nuance to the migrant experience. It reminds us of the importance of sharing history, no matter how painful, through generations. Only through shared knowledge can one truly understand their heritage.

This post was written by
Courtney is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic and the founder of Cinema Axis. He can frequently be heard discussing film as co-host of Frameline on Radio Regent. Courtney has contributed to several publications including Leornard Maltin, That Shelf, Black Girl Nerds, and Comix Asylum Magazine. He also celebrates diversity in cinema as co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.
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