The immigrant story in American film is at least as old as talking pictures, often laced with familiar themes, including the old folks' frustration with the new generation's American accents and ways. In immigrant families, though, even little ones know the food — and the expectations — of the old world. Shah Bob, a peek into "Tehrangeles," the vast Iranian-American community in Los Angeles, treads this ground. Bob is an aspiring filmmaker — the movie's quite meta as it jogs alongside writer-director Babak Shokrian's real life — under pressure from his "pop" and girlfriend to make better choices, the kind that shred the dreams of an artist.
Shokrian indulges himself in this film, not just with this personal story but also with snippets and talk of Fellini, and by taking things slow, '70s-style. Robert Murphy's cinematography treats us to a dreamy Kodachrome L.A., and the actors step up to the demands of a director who enjoys delivering the close-up. Shah Bob may be languid, interrupted by Rockford-style freeze-frames, but it's also intimate and captivating, and it calls to mind indie films from before Sundance made them mostly another Hollywood commodity. As Bob juggles his girlfriend, his dad, his friends and his failures, sometimes with the cluelessness of a dude who hasn't come to terms with his fourth decade, we also see his dark side. And when it rises up, we see some of the intensity that Shokrian showed in his debut film of more than a decade ago, America So Beautiful, a story set against the flaming backdrop of the Iranian revolution. You may not be entirely surprised by the ending, but it's clear in Bob's eyes that he has surprised himself.
Babak ShokrianReza Sixo-Safai, Parviz Sayyad, Solmaz Niki-Kermani, Vida Ghahremani, Ardavan Mofid, Ally PourabasBabak Shokrian, Scott Sampler