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Sundance 2024 Review: In the Land of Brothers – “some stunning moments”

Three members of an extended Afghan family start their lives over in Iran as refugees, unaware they face a decades-long struggle ahead to be “at home.”

Divided into three chapters each spanning a decade are an anthology of stories dealing with Afghan refugees trying to establish a new life in Iran which is far from welcoming.  The first chapter occurs in 2001 with high school student Mohammad (Mohammad Hosseini) being rounded up by Iranian police as means of cheap labour, the second occurs a decade later in 2011 with Mohammad’s childhood sweetheart Leila (Hamideh Jafari) making a living as a domestic servant and having to deal with a personal tragedy, and the third happens in 2021 with Leila’s brother Qasem (Bashir Nikzad) learning about the fate of his son.

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The most compelling of the chapters is the first one as you see a high school student starting to hit his stride and the world is filled with possibilities even though the girl he shares a mutual attraction, Leila, is to be married to someone else.   When this hopefulness gets snuffed out by the unscrupulous Iranian police it feels like a gut punch.  The other two stories feel somewhat removed despite the characters experiencing equally damaging trauma at the hands of the establishment. Everything is shot on location which adds to the feeling of authenticity and the camera is always present like an additional cast member.

Long takes allow the performances to take centre stage and give a documentary feel to the proceedings.  The area where the editing falters is when an assault occurs off-screen and the camera freezes on blurred frame.  Though the reason for doing this is understandable but it feels like a makeshift solution. The cinematography is naturalistic and there are some stunning moments like Leila standing with a lantern on a wintry night and another of her looking at a lone white dog as if she is witnessing the ghost of herself.  The best scene is the Afghan family dinner at a long table as it feels as if you are eavesdropping on the conversation.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more information visit

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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