26 January 2020 | justindavidtuttle
Reviewed by Justin Tuttle. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020.
I highly recommend seeing this movie. I had the chance to view this at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) for the United States premier of the film. Shown to a packed house, the movie is a compelling, emotionally gripping movie that pulls at your heart strings as Farideh (actress Eline Farideh Koning) seeks to find her birth parents in Iran after being adopted and raised as a child by a Dutch couple. The journey to find her birth parents was especially poignant because as a transnational adoptee she never really fit in either with her adopted family or her schoolmates (who bullied her for looking different).
Finding Farideh, a documentary, was directed by Kourosh Ataee (From Iran, A Separation) and Asadeh Moussavi (Discharged). It was written by Kourosh Ataee, Eline Farideh Koning, and Azadeh Moussavi. The sole cast member was Eline Farideh Koning (herein referred to Farideh). It was shot on location in Iran and the Netherlands. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
The movie chronicles Farideh's journey to find her birth parents. As noted, Farideh never felt like she fit in socially in Denmark. She also had an uneasy relationship with her adoptive parents and brother. She learned that she was adopted out of an orphanage in Mashad, Iran after being left in a public square. Prior to the trip she reaches out online, describing her background to see if anyone thinks they are her family. In an very interesting twist that really adds to the character and storyline of the movie, three separate families believe she may be related to them. When she arrives in Mashad, Iran she has all three families greet her in an emotional meeting. They then go get DNA tested to see who, if any are related to her. The DNA tests take one month to analyze and during the month we learn each of the families painful story of their reasons for why a female infant was adopted out. These included poverty and a kidnapping by an ex spouse. One of the potential birth mothers was especially convinced Farideh was her long lost daughter. Through sobbing tears upon seeing Farideh, she noted many similar physical similarities and was convinced she was her long lost daughter she had been grieving over. She described a life of anguish over her baby girl being snatched and spirited away by her abusive ex husband. In a way I couldn't help but hold out hope that she was the one who was indeed Farideh's birth mother.
In an especially touching and poignant scene, Farideh visits the actually orphanage in which she was adopted from. She is filmed in a room playing and interacting with young toddlers that were her age. I couldn't help but think this was a circle of life moment. Farideh had expressed a desire of having children and it dawned on me how amazing that would be if she herself someday adopted one of the children needing good homes.
Many tears were shed both by Farideah as well as myself during this movie. I found myself identifying with the pain felt by Farideh and watched with anticipation to find out who, if anyone, she was related to and if she could find some peace, healing, and reconciliation from the experience. Besides the compelling acting, of significance to me were the beautiful scenes shot in Iran giving me a feel for being there and what it would be like to travel and meet the people of the country.
Farideh spoke after the movie as well as during a filmmakers panel. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and talking about her story and life. I shared with her how this movie for me was topical given the current tenuous political climate between Iran and the US. By seeing regular Iranian citizens engaged in the same trials and tribulations of daily life, this humanized them to me inopposite of the picture painted in the news. Unfortunately, due to the travel ban, the producers and writers still living in Iran were not able to attend and it would have been nice to talk with them as well.
Again, I would recommend this movie. Especially to those that enjoy real life situations and are not simply looking for a feel good, happy go lucky movie.
Eline Farideh Koning at SBIFF, US premier, 1/18/20