At Home and Abroad

FLIFF warms up with edgy documentaries and a journey to the Thai heart of darkness

Shot on video, director Kaprice Kea attempts through his low-budget creativity to give the film immediacy, as though you're watching through the lens of a fellow traveler, complete with rolling timer in the bottom frame. It's effective in showing the grittier scenes of prostitute bars as Adam strolls through the sordid nightlife. But the few scenes that take place in the beautiful countryside are pointless on grainy video. The acting lacks the sparkle of real actors and the innocence and integrity of amateurs, as dramatic scenes become overwrought. (Friday, November 7, 3 p.m., Parker Playhouse; 94 minutes) -- John Anderson

As it did last year with the austerely beautiful drama Daughters of the Sun, which chronicled the plight of an Iranian girl essentially sold into slavery to earn money for her impoverished family, the festival seems determined to make us confront our assumptions about such global hot spots as Iran. Mystic Iran: The Unseen World, a short but powerful documentary -- produced, cowritten, directed, and edited by Iranian-American filmmaker Aryana Farshad -- challenges the Western world's tendency to lump Iran in with the rest of the Islamic world without regard to its diversity.

Living long in a happy gay relationship; at right, living short in the raucous L.A. rock scene
Living long in a happy gay relationship; at right, living short in the raucous L.A. rock scene


Friday, October 17, through Sunday, November 16, at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale, and Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-760-9898.

Farshad, who was born in Iran, educated in France, and now lives in the United States, moves beyond the familiar ayatollahs to uncover an array of rich religious traditions in her native land. Spirituality, she asserts, is the basis of the country's survival, and so she returns to her homeland after two decades away from it to explore some of those traditions. She starts in Tehran, where she contrasts Islam's controversial dress code for women with the increasing role they play in creative professions, then moves into other parts of the country. After a visit to the tomb of a Muslim saint, she touches on the influences of Zarathustra, Moses, and Jesus, all of whom, she notes, predated Mohammed, and there's an especially mesmerizing look at the mystical rites of Kurdish dervishes whose feverish chanting and dancing take them to an elevated state of religious consciousness. Despite the grainy imagery and scratchy sound, the material is often fascinating, although it's also the sort of thing you might run across on any number of cable TV networks. (Saturday, November 8, 8 p.m., Cinema Paradiso; 52 minutes) -- Michael Mills

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