qathet film festival 2024
Wed Mar 6 — 1:30 pm
Esther and Sai
Fremont takes its title from the Bay Area city of the same name. Often called Little Kabul, it’s home to one of the largest enclaves of Afghans in the United States, with many immigrants gravitating toward it for a sense of community. That’s what Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) is searching for: Community. Connection. Love. It’s a dry, sweet, Jarmusch-inspired tale about an Afghan translator finding her voice. The black-and-white indie drama strikes a beautiful tone with a deadpan sense of humor, aided by Anaita Wali Zada’s quietly poignant performance.
A former translator for American troops in Kabul — a role that eventually allowed her to leave her birth country but left her with unresolved feelings of guilt and shame — 20 something Donya now lives by herself in a Fremont, California, apartment complex full of other Afghan immigrants. Working in a Chinese fortune cookie factory, she decides to send out a special message in one of the cookies. “The fortune you’re looking for is in another cookie,” reads one of the many custom fortune cookie messages she crafts.
The biggest achievement of Jalali here is the precise tone that he strikes with his mild-mannered movie: always several feet deeper in its themes and deliberations around human isolation than meets the eye. In its final moments, the potency of Fremont sneaks up on you. The film settles into the sort of semi-enchanted deadpan that flattens its world into a gentle monotone, making its strangeness feel ordinary, and its ordinariness feel strange… a sensation not unlike the vertigo of escaping to the far side of the planet only to find yourself surrounded by people from home. You go in reluctant and even skeptical and come out wondering how and why you’re moved to tears.
Anaita Wali Zada, Gregg Turkington, Jeremy Allen White, Hilda Schmelling, Avis See-tho, Siddique Ahmed, Taban Ibraz, Timur Nusratty, Eddie Tang, Jennifer McKay, and Boots Riley & Alina Hubbard-Riley as themselves
Country of Origin:
Esther and Sai
Director Anäisa Visser and Rosie Pidcock
Canada / English, 2021
Based on a true story, this independent film captures the struggle of immigrating to a new country through the beginning of a lifelong friendship.