Director: Nafiss Nía | Script: Nafiss Nía | Cast: Hoda Niku (Roya), Good Wishka (Nassim’s brother) | Time to play: 75 minutes | Year: 2023
More than twenty years ago, Nafiss Nia fled from Iran to the Netherlands, already with the idea of becoming a filmmaker. He studied at the Tehran Film Academy and further training as a screenwriter at the Netherlands Film Academy. He now finally brings his debut The afternoon outside. A very minimalist and personal film, rich in poetry and symbolism.
The movie only revolves around two characters and takes place in one location. Roya is a failed refugee who fled from the asylum seeker center to avoid being sent back to Iran. She knocks on Nassim’s door, hoping he can help her. After all, she’s the only person she has an address for.
He finds a man who claims to be Nassim’s brother, but refuses to open the door for him. Roya decides to wait in the hallway of the apartment complex for Nassim to come home. After all, she has no other choice; getting back on the streets is too risky to get caught.
As the door remains closed, Roya tries her best to find an opening anyway. She strikes up a conversation with the man, about his homeland, life in the Netherlands, and learning a new language, among other things. In The afternoon it’s also mostly about language and this is a great strength of the film. The conversation between Roya and the man behind the door takes place in Dutch, Farsi and English.
The characters sometimes pronounce the words as if they were reciting a poem. Not surprising, since Nia also writes poetry herself, but she also knows how to incorporate it into the game in a very appropriate way. The poetic dialogues give the subdued acting a golden touch.
Roya and the man talk about how they live life, which turns out to be very different for both of them. A difference between a clear day and a gloomy night. The fact that the film only takes place in one location emphasizes how trapped both Roya and the man are. Roya is not allowed to enter the apartment, symbolizing that she is not allowed to enter the Netherlands. The man cannot leave her apartment, symbolizing how he cannot find a way out of her situation.
The afternoon it feels like a stage performance. What makes the simple but very striking concept a bit more cinematic are the different camera angles that look at, if not spy on, the characters at times. That makes the situation they find themselves in even more oppressive.
A surprising observation of language captures the essence of The afternoon perfectly together. Roya tells the man that “however” is her favorite Dutch word. “Such a long word with such a small meaning,” she explains with a smile. The word ‘death’, on the other hand, is a small word with a very big meaning. And that’s exactly what Nia’s feature film debut is. A film of only seventy-five minutes that deals with very big issues.