Iran's "About Elly" praised at Berlin fest

Sun Feb 8, 2009 7:55am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - An Iranian drama exploring the lengths to which people go to uphold the country's social conventions has won warm reviews at the Berlin film festival, putting it in the early running for prizes.

"About Elly" (Darbareye Elly), starring Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani as Sepideh, centers around a group of middle-class Iranians who drive to the shores of the Caspian Sea for a short break from Tehran.

Mischievous matchmaker Sepideh invites nursery school teacher Elly, hoping that she gets together with divorced friend Ahmad who is back in his native Iran from Germany.

Concerned that Elly's presence in the villa may raise eyebrows, Sepideh tells the old woman letting the property that the couple are newlyweds. It is the start of a long trail of deception that eventually turns a happy holiday into tragedy.

Screen International critic Lee Marshall called About Elly "one of the most remarkable Iranian films to surface in the last few years," giving it four out of four stars.

The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young wrote: "'About Elly' confirms director Asghar Farhadi as a major talent in Iranian cinema whose ability to chronicle the middle-class malaise of his society is practically unrivalled."

Farahani was singled out for her performance, although reports said her involvement could mean the movie did not get shown in Iran due to controversy caused when she appeared in "Body of Lies," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, last year.


<p>Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani attends a news conference to promote the film "About Elly" of the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, February 7, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>