SXSW: “FREMONT” REVIEW
By David Baldwin
Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) has been living in the US for 8 months. In Afghanistan, she was a translator for American troops. Now she is working in a fortune cookie factory either packaging the cookies or writing the fortunes. She is struggling to adapt to her new life in America, and has trouble coming out of her traumatized shell. So she sets out to change that.
Co-Writer/Director Babak Jalali’s portrait of this young woman living in an Afghan diaspora is not going to be for everyone. It is slow moving, droll and only sporadically funny. It has a lot it wants to say about Donya and her journey, but does not always find the time or ability to say it. Jalali cribs from the work of Jim Jarmusch here (with a slight hint of Woody Allen), spending more time focusing on Donya’s isolation and the mundane, wordless moments of her day than it does on her as a character. When she does discuss her trauma with psychiatrist Dr. Anthony (Gregg Turkington), the conversations devolve into nonsensical observations and bizarre moments involving Jack London’s novel White Fang.
Hollywood It-Boy Jeremy Allen White (who was terrific on 11 seasons of Shameless before he struck gold with The Bear) shows up for a bit part that is more awkward than anything else, but what really impressed me about FREMONT was the way Jalali frames Donya’s story. He tells it in 4:3, in stark black and white with minimal music, which is an all too blatant reflection of her less than thrilling existence. Stripped of colour, we learn more about Donya than the dialogue ever attempts to tell us. That gorgeous cinematography and production design is what kept me invested in FREMONT. I just wish the story did too.
FREMONT screens at SXSW ’23 as follows:
Mar 11 at 6:45pm at Violet Crown Cinema 2
Mar 11 at 7:15pm at Violet Crown Cinema 4
Mar 12 at 8:15pm at Alamo Lamar A
Mar 13 at 7:00pm at Violet Crown Cinema 2
Mar 13 at 7:30pm at Violet Crown Cinema 4