Like many festivals, Rendezvous with Madness pairs their feature length films up with shorts. Hamza Bangash’s Stray Dogs Come Out at Night chooses Pakistan as its setting. It’s the country where Iqbal and his uncle make money as sex workers. The short explores their relationship and how that affects Iqbal.
On the other hand, the main feature here, The Silhouettes, tries to juggle a family portrait. It also looks closely towards one of that family’s young members. That main subject is Taghi, a thirtysomething man born and living in Iran but is legally Afghan because of his parents.
Director Afsaneh Salari looks at Taghi’s potential as a post-grad engineer. But he’s still a second generation immigrant. This might mean that his education is useless in Iran and he has to work in his family’s business. Most of the time he smiles his troubles away but not at work.
Taghi is fine as a main subject, but there’s a part of me that wishes that Salari put more focus on the family’s patriarch. He speaks Farsi instead of Dari and when Taghi tells him about his plans to move back to Kabul, he instead prefers to stay put in Iran.
Another reason why Taghi’s father might have deserved more screen time is because of how he tells his stories about Afghanistan. There’s a reluctance to tell the whole story, which, in Salari’s defense, makes sense. She also wisely focuses her camera on Taghi’s reactions as well as Taghi’s sister Zahra.
And since this is a film in a fest about mental health, Salari looks at that aspect of her subjects lives subtly. She instead connects that topic with the family’s economic and educational options. Sometimes, mental health advocacy concerns itself with the kind of choices society allows its marginalized citizens.