Film Review: For A Moment, Freedom

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Vienna International Film Festival

VIENNA -- The perils of a filmmaker being much too close to his material are amply illustrated in "For a Moment, Freedom" ("Ein, Augenblick, Freiheit"), Arash T Riahi's earnestly autobiographical tale about the plight of Iranian refugees fleeing via Turkey to Europe. His intentions are honorable and admirable, but the slick execution of this long-gestating project is manipulatively heavy-handed with corny, melodramatic results.

Tonally wayward tearjerker is proving catnip to certain awards juries, such prizes in Montreal, Zurich and Vienna, surely more a matter of applauding a worthy, ever-topical choice of subject matter than the movie's own dubious merits. Further festival play is a given, but the chances of this acclaim translating to international arthouse exposure are surely remote.

Chief focus is on an extended, sympathetic family including a couple of oh-so-cute little moppets whose attempts to reach the "promised land" of Europe are cruelly stymied when they become stranded in bureaucracy-ridden Ankara. The broken-backed, over-complicated script punctuates their misadventures with the more light-humored exploits of another pair of asylum-seekers in the Turkish capital -- a life-worn, middle-aged Iranian and his irrepressibly happy-go-lucky young Kurdish pal (Lebanese-born, Swedish-based Fares FaresKirk Honeycutt 11/24/08 CQ, who's pretty good in a tough role).

The latter duo's comic/tragic escapades are too contrived to yield laughter or sobs and the family saga at the picture's soggy core isn't handled any more fluently. A sentimental, excessive score by Karuan unsubtly underlines and thus spoils pretty much every development in a draggy affair that feels considerably longer than its 110 minutes.
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