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Almost Brothers

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Global Lens 2006
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Border Cafe (Café Transit) a film by Kambozia Partovi

Iran, 2005 (105 minutes)

Near Iran's border with Turkey, Reyhan, newly widowed with two young daughters to look after, sits outside her late husband's restaurant as a group of men discuss what is to become of the business—and of her. Nasser, her brother-in-law, proposes that they follow local tradition : he will marry Reyhan and take responsibility for her and her girls, moving them into a house shared with his mother and his first wife.

But Reyhan refuses. She comes from another part of Iran, where traditions are different, and she's still mourning her husband. When Nasser threatens to cut off her financial support, she decides to reopen the cafe. She will stay in the kitchen and cook, while an older man named Oujan greets customers and waits on them.

Reyhan's food quickly catches on, and the cafe develops a regular clientele among the truck drivers who bring goods across the border, much to Nasser's chagrin. Reyhan's success makes her brother-in-law's offer to marry and support her less and less attractive, and, at the same time, takes customers away from his own restaurant. Nasser's frustration at Reyhan's independence is coupled with indignation—by violating local tradition and working in public as a single woman, he says she is dishonoring the memory of her husband and exposing his family to shame.

But Reyhan is finding a new purpose for herself in the kitchen. Among her diners is a Greek truckdriver, Zakario, who brings canned moussaka for her to warm up. One day Reyhan sneaks a taste of it, and the next time that Zakario comes to the cafe, she serves him her own homemade version. Deeply touched, Zakario says that her recipe reminds him of the wife who left him five years ago.

One morning Reyhan arrives at the cafe early and discovers Svieta, a 19 year-old Russian girl, sleeping there. She is trying to make her way to Italy, fleeing the war in her own country and searching for her sister, who went ahead of her. Although they don't share a language, Oujan translates some of Svieta's story for Reyhan. It reminds Reyhan of her own brother, who deserted during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and the two women begin to become friends. When two suspicious drivers offer to take Svieta across into Turkey, Reyhan rescues her from them, offering the girl a place to stay in her house and work in the restaurant.

Later, a problem in a nearby Kurdish region shuts the border down for several days. Zakario is one of the drivers stuck at the cafe, and, as he spends more time with Reyhan, he realizes he's falling in love with her. He asks her to come with him when the border reopens, but Reyhan is shocked by his idea and walks away. Rumors begin to spread about Reyhan spending time with a foreigner, however, and Nasser comes to the restaurant to try to bully her into closing down the business and marrying him. The manager of Nasser's restaurant picks a fight with Zakario, breaking his leg. As Zakario recuperates at the restaurant, Reyhan is issued a summons : she's alleged to have violated the law and the place may be shuttered for good.

The judge that hears Reyhan's case explains that, according to Islamic laws, she only has the right to inherit 1/8 of her husband's property—the rest is to be held in trust for her children. When he rules against her, a group of men come out to the restaurant and padlock it shut. Reyhan can only watch as her independence is taken from her.

Later, Zakario returns to see Reyhan at her house. He asks her once again to marry him and come with him to Greece. She tells him that she can't.

In an epilogue, an embittered Nasser sits with his daughter. He can't understand why Reyhan wouldn't come live with them, even after adding a wing on the house just for her. He reveals that he's built a wing for his daughter too, so that when she marries she and her husband can live there, and also a wing for his son and his future family…

About the Director
Kambozia Partovi was born in the province of Gilan, Iran, and studied dramatic arts at Tehran University. His early work included creating the children’s television program "The Green Frog." He filmed "The Fish" in war-torn Tehran in 1987. He has worked as a screenwriter on Circle (2000) and Earth and Ashes (2004). Partovi’s films include Golnar (1989), Adults’ Game (1992), and Naneh lala (1997). Border Café (2005) won the Best Screenplay and Best Actress Award at the Fajr International Film Festival in Iran.

Principal Cast



Fereshteh Sarde Orfaei
Parviz Parastoei
Nicolas Papadopoulos
Estobeta Mikhailishnia






Production Designer

Kambozia Partovi
Amir Samavati
Behrooz Haeshemiam
Setareh Farsi
Kambozia Partovi
Mohammed Reza Sokout
Jafar Panahi
Jacques Witta
Hassan Farsi
Parviz Abnar

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