Low-key is the best way to sum up Babak Jalali’s film Radio Dreams. It plods along at a pedestrian pace telling its tale. Certainly was not what I expected. Did not shed any light onto Persian culture for the viewer. Or does? Do you just have to dig beneath the surface to see what Jalali is trying to get across? Is it all just as nuanced as the poems and folk songs that are read and sung on the radio station? Yes.
Pars Radio in San Francisco is a Persian language radio station run by the germaphobe Mr. Hamid Royani (Mohsen Namjoo – A Few Kilos of Dates for a Funeral), who is a well-known Iranian writer and has higher standards than those who own the station. He butts heads continuously with the station owner’s daughter, Maral (Boshra Dastournezhad – first film), who just wants him to air stuff which will attract buyers for commercials. That means Mr. Royami should air fewer high-brow programs for stuff that will attract more listeners.
To do so and still satisfy his sensibilities Mr. Royani has conceived of a musical bringing together of East and West. He is flying in Afghani rock band Kabul Dreams so that they can jam with their musical inspiration, Metallica. Everyone is waiting for the world famous band to make their appearance at the radio station.
As the day arrives in which Metallica is to arrive the hours drag on and no sign of the band. Tension rises. Royani feels his dream slipping from his fingers.
With his pompous demeanour and Albert Einstein-like hair Royani is behaving like someone who used to be someone and is now searching desperately to find that same success in his new country (the United States). The age old tale of an immigrant trying to find their place in their adopted country. Expatriate life. The allure of the American Dream. Trying to find that status once again in country in which he can barely speak the language. The idea of culture and identity runs throughout.
The idea of music being used as a uniting force between two countries and cultures that have been at odds of late. Afghanistan and the United States have been in conflict. There is still hope. Hope that there can be a hope of reconciliation and peace between the two. Music is put forward by Radio Dreams as the olive branch.