BORN IN EVIN follows Maryam Zaree, an actress and filmmaker, on her moving journey to discover more about her past. Maryam was born in prison during the 1983 climax of the Iranian Cultural Revolution, where her mother & father were both imprisoned by Ayatollah Khomeini’s newly found Islamic Republic. BORN IN EVIN follows Maryam as she tries to break down existing barriers to learn more about a shared past from those who experienced it first hand. With her parents reluctant to talk about their experiences, Maryam discovers this reticence is shared by many from Iran’s diaspora.
Maryam spent her first years in prison with her mother before fleeing to Germany. Although both of her parents survived, Maryam’s past is still shrouded in mystery. In particular, her mother has been unwilling to talk to her, instead choosing to shield her daughter from the violence she faced. Although Maryam had hoped that her film would begin with her mother talking to her, she instead needs to look to her other family, friends and fellow survivors to learn more about the environment into which she was born.
BORN IN EVIN is a thought-provoking and tender search for the truth. Although the film begins with Maryam trying to learn about her specific birthing conditions, it grows into an exploration of the shared experiences and inherited trauma faced by this second generation of survivors. As the film develops, it becomes more poetic, moving in parallel with the widening of Maryam’s scope as she begins to look beyond the detail to the emotional and lasting impact of past events. A poignant scene of Maryam submerged in water is reminiscent of her earliest moments as a baby and allows us to contemplate her vulnerability.
BORN IN EVIN is so compelling because of this vulnerability. Its strength lies in its protagonist’s ability to lay everything bare before her viewer. Maryam’s relationship with her participants (mostly family members or close friends) is raw and deeply emotional. In particular, scenes with her father are touching and very open. Although her father requires some encouragement to realise the value of his testimony fully, Maryam’s ability to put him at ease allows an insight into the prisoner experience. In contrast, Maryam’s mother is more closed, but how Maryam handles interactions with her mother is also telling and gives a unique view into the experience of the individual survivor. Maryam has an innate ability to relate with those around her, and it is from this that BORN IN EVIN easily finds a connection with its audience.
Although the history of the revolution and Maryam’s mother’s experience largely goes untold, the film does not miss anything because of it. Instead, BORN IN EVIN reaches into a not-often-seen layer of the effects of trauma on individuals and the subsequent generations. This film isn’t about the Iranian Cultural Revolution but illustrates the experience of trauma and the resulting desire to heal. Although many of Maryam’s familial scars are not understood, she reaches a point where she doesn’t need to know where each came from to improve her understanding of her family, fellow Iranians and, finally, herself.