June 29 2020. Only seven years away, and yet the world is dangerously plagued with cyber-attacks and relations between the USA and Iran have worsened even further. It would be a brave filmmaker to tackle such a wide threat in only 20 minutes, and especially by focusing on only one character, but writer/director Mohammad Gorjestani pinpoints the situation well.
Refuge follows Sonia (Nikohl Boosheri), an Iranian immigrant in the US who is under threat of deportation due to the turbulence between the two countries. She fled Iran after taking part in protests with some friends who were subsequently jailed, and is therefore desperate not to go back. She is offered help by an unblinking man in genetic research, Reza (Camyar Chai), and his proposal is more horrible than Sonia would have imagined, but does she have a choice?
Gorjestani portrays his themes of technology and war with an impressively subtle approach. His use of dialogue is sparing but never boring, and Sonia only speaks when spoken to. His cinematography follows her around, almost always either in dark or open spaces, which are both sinister in their own way. Unfortunately, this attention to detail did not follow through to the subtitles.
In today’s world in which technology holds an ever-increasing power, the danger of cyber-attacks is becoming more of a reality than ever before. With Refuge, Gorjestani has created an imagined future in which the Iranian-American conflict becomes dangerously real and the stakes for everyday citizens are higher, as proved by Sonia’s tearful breakdown. If anyone needs a chilling reminder of where we could be heading, this is it.