Maryam | Chicago Reader

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Ramin Serry's remarkably poised debut feature concerns an Iranian-American family in a New Jersey suburb coping with self-doubt and harassment during the 1979 hostage crisis. The subject alone is enough to warrant our attention, and Serry gently leads us through the tense time, seen through the eyes of the daughter, Mary, or Maryam in Persian (Mariam Parris). Her cousin Ali (David Ackert), a hotheaded fundamentalist, comes to live with the family and accuses her father of an act of cowardice before setting out to assassinate the shah, who's hiding in a New York hospital. For his script Serry draws on the recollections of people like himself who thought they were assimilated and didn't expect to be ostracized, and while Ali's arguments with his American relatives often threaten to lapse into dry ideological debate, they do underscore the complexity of ethnic allegiances. The film is full of finely observed details (enhanced by Harlan Bosmajian's discreet visuals), and Serry re-creates the period beautifully, juxtaposing news footage with the family's reaction and Mary's growing political awareness with the blithe apathy of her teenage peers. 87 min.

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