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Enduring truths about the human condition: Bishop of Chelmsford reviews 'The Red Suitcase'

Ariane played by Nawelle Evad | Image courtesy of Cynefilms

2 min read

Iranian director Cyrus Neshvad’s short film is stress filled and suspenseful from the start

The issues of child marriage, migration, exploitation and the rights of women all come to the fore in this brief 16-minute story of a young girl who arrives at Luxembourg airport, having travelled, we assume, from Iran.

The red suitcase belongs to 16-year Ariane who we come to realise has been sent by her father, for financial payment, to be married to an older Iranian man in the West. The movie is stress filled and suspenseful from the start.

The viewer is quickly engaged and drawn in as the scenes illicit strong emotions for this young, vulnerable and fearful woman. The small red suitcase contains a handful of items – drawings and all the things of a regular Persian girl’s childhood together with a small amount of money and a note from her father. In a touching scene, where this meagre collection of possessions is lost to her, she is left with nothing more than her sense of self and an uncertain future.

The nomination The Red Suitcase received for Best Live Action Short Film at this year’s Oscars is worthy recognition

Persian film makers, of which Cyrus Neshvad is one, are gaining an extraordinary reputation both for the quality of cinematography and storytelling, ably conveying something of the individual experience alongside a universal reality, all told more through poetry than prose. The nomination The Red Suitcase received for Best Live Action Short Film at this year’s Oscars is worthy recognition.

We should not be surprised that Persians have an eye for scenery and the pictorial, given the stark and picturesque beauty of the country’s landscape. And we witness the contrasts of worlds colliding in the final scene with the western ideal of the feminine image – is she laughing or crying? – as the haunting Persian music fades away. 

As with so many tales of Persian antiquity this brief and simple tale captures enduring truths about the human condition, with its capacity for both cruelty and courage. What becomes of Ariane, arrestingly played by Nawelle Evad, we do not know. But what we do know, of course, is that towns and cities, the length and breadth of this country and across the world, are full of Arianes, if we but stop to notice and listen to their stories.

Bishop of Chelmsford is a non-affiliated peer

The Red Suitcase
Directed by: Cyrus Neshvad
Production company: Cynefilms

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