Border Cafe DVD Review: Girl Food Fight, Iranian Style

The tenderly crafted tale of a determined young Iranian widow to run her own truckstop diner to support her children, rather than deferring to strict tradition that mandates she marry her late husband’s brother as his second wife and go live with him, Border Cafe is really a tribute to women as second class citizens everywhere who struggle for self-determination. Fereshteh Sadre Orafaei is Reyhan, the fiercely independent-minded mother of two who won’t take no for an answer from her overbearing brother-in-law Nasser (Parviz Parastoei). She also happens to be a fabulous cook.

Which is exactly where the two most vehemently if not overtly, clash in this female rebel food fight. Nasser runs his own diner in town, which to his utter humiliation is losing business, not only to a competitor, but a woman. When all else fails, Nasser cruelly invokes existing draconic laws, which leave only a tiny fraction of a husband’s inheritance to the widow if the late spouse failed to ever file a will. Nasser may prevail in battle, but there’s still plenty of fire to spare when it comes to this spunky widow, in the greater gender wars.

Border Cafe is teeming, not only with heaping portions of Reyhan’s delectable dishes, but loads of charm, local flavor and colorful town eccentrics. There’s also a protective surrogate family surrounding the vulnerable young mom at the bustling crossroads cafe between Iran and Turkey, including her frontman waiter who shields her from inquiring males questioning the presence of a feisty single working woman carving out her own life for herself; a young female Russian runaway who learns enough Farsi to help do the dishes; and a smitten Greek trucker equally infatuated with Reyhan and her eggplant stew.

Iranian filmmaker Kambozia Partovi, who also penned the screenplay for The Circle, helms Border Cafe in the visually and emotionally lyrical, socially conscious tradition of that country’s esteemed procession of contemporary directors. Border Cafe is a small gem with an enormous heart, biting wit, and a take-no-prisoners one woman hit squad, even if she’s tied up in the kitchen.

DVD Features: Discussion Guide, including Director’s Statement, Director’s Biography, and About Iran.

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Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.