Review: The Persian Version

Maryam Keshavarz’s The Persian Version is a heart warming semi-autobiographical dramatic comedy that debuted in the US Dramatic program at Sundance 2023, winning both the Audience Award and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

It is a personal story about a young Iranian American woman who takes us through a journey from Iran to New York telling tale of many immigrant women who struggle to overcome their trauma of migration to make it in America.

Present day, 2000s New York/New Jersey. As the only girl child among eight brothers, Leila (Layla Mohammadi) leads a lifestyle that disappoints her mother Shirin (Niousha Noor) – be it her same-sex marriage (now over) or her career choice (filmmaking, not academia).

The film opens with Leila showing up in a burk-ini (burka and bikini) at a Halloween party a and hooks up with an English actor (Tom Byrne) dressed as drag queen from his lead role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Spanning 50 years, the film offers several flashbacks, including 1985 Iran when, as a kid, Leila (Chiara Stella) was the only sibling allowed to travel there because girls couldn’t be drafted into the Iranian military. It is a dramatic and heart wrenching film that will make you laugh and cry. There is happy ending when Leila grandchild Arezoo (meaning hope) is born showing way to the coming generation with hope.

The film is written and directed by Iranian American Maryam Keshavarz. In 2011, her first narrative feature Circumstance – about the sexual desire between two teen girls in Iran – won the US Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance but also got her banned from ever returning to the Islamic Republic.

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