“Hi mommy, my beautiful fereshteh,” she greets her mother through a voicemail, letting her know that she, and her father, would not be attending dinner, leaving her mother in her familiar solitude once again. The short film, Fereshteh by filmmaker Elika Rezaee, details the daily routine of an Iranian woman who spends the entirety of her day in the company of herself and her dogs. The word “fereshteh” means angel in Urdu, and I believe its inclusion in the title highlights how much the protagonist mimics the ideal image of an angelic parent or natural caretaker who puts their family’s needs before their own. Her role as a mother begins immediately within the film, but of course not to traditional children. Her dogs keep her company as her husband and actual human kids are not home; preoccupied with other matters. We never experience their physical presence but learn of them through phone calls. After watching the film for a second time, I realized the dialogue of the main character consists solely of words that pertain to her services of her loved ones' needs, asking: if ‘everyone got home alright last night’, ‘are they hungry,’ and cooks them a meal that no one actually eats. It is a sacrifice many parents, more commonly mothers, have to make in order to fulfill roles placed upon them that revolve around maintaining a well-functioning home.
Speaking on the cinematography of the film itself, I took note of a few shots of the protagonist in mirrors and reflective surfaces. I feel these specific moments are truly fitting because they showcase the inescapable truth of her day to day in the absence of company. The empty spaces of her home are filled with reflections of herself through literal mirrors and external images, but also through things that symbolize pieces of her, such as her art. It is through these framed works that we see the fantastical elements that the film has to offer. In one scene, the fereshteh feels the painted edges of a portrait of grapes. As she gently strokes the two-dimensional fruit, she somehow manages to pull an actual grape from the painting and eat it. Another instance of this occurs when she's making coffee for herself. She gathers the beans, turns on the pot and boils the water, and as she climbs the stepstool to retrieve a cup, suddenly the colors of the film are filled with warmth and life, as opposed to the overtly bright and almost clinical tint we’re accustomed to, and earth-toned colored leaves fall from this tree that was once her cabinet. Rezaee explains these as “actions that seem unremarkable from the outside are infused with a search for purpose amid all the mundane challenges, absurdities, introspection, and loneliness that structure her existence.” It is a subtle introduction to magical realism that does not distract from the film’s overall message in my opinion, and in fact only highlights how incredible it feels to do things and care for oneself. In Fereshteh, we gain insight into a woman's journey of much needed self-realization and how rewarding it can be to put yourself before others when you’ve been nothing but selfless all your life.
Fereshteh screens at the Spring 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 28 as part of Shorts Program #1. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 5PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. To buy tickets go here.
For General Info on the Film Festival go here: https://newjerseyfilmfestivalspring2023.eventive.org/welcome