Fremont (2023)

Fremont directed by Babak Jalali is an absurdist but moving look at displacement and the immigrant experience.

Immigrant Blues

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Fremont sneaks up on you in its quiet deadpan way, like expatriate Iranian director Babak Jalali’s other films (Radio Dreams, Frontier Blues). 

It’s about displacement and the immigrant experience and making a connection. This is embodied by Donya (played by Anaita Wali Zada, a refugee herself), an Afghan woman who was a translator with the US Army. After the American retreat from Afghanistan, she had to leave her country and family behind. She feels guilt at trying to build a new life even in the faceless commuter suburb of Fremont: other Afghan refugees live there too.

She works in a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco with a chatty Chinese owner, where she has an American workmate (Hilda Schmelling) she is friendly with and she is promoted to write fortunes for others to find in the cookies. These messages can be a cry for help.

Donya can’t sleep, so she wants sleeping pills but the eccentric, understanding psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington) she sees insists she has PTSD, which she won’t acknowledge. An absurd drive to Bakersfield means she has to venture for the first time out of her discomfort zone: she encounters a mechanic (Jeremy Allen White).

Fremont is a charming, thoughtful, funny and moving comment on a very contemporary issue, shot in beautiful black and white, with surpring, striking plot-relevant singing. People speak unemotionally direct to camera, like in a Jarmusch film. There’s much more to Fremont than initially meets the eye.

Fremont premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is released on 15 September 2023 in the UK.

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