Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: Utopia (Afghanistan)

by Nellee Holmes December 14, 2015
A scene from the Afghan film Utopia

Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.

Utopia (Arman Shahr) follows an Afghan woman, Janan, as she travels to the UK for artificial insemination. The film is a Babel-like drama involving three intersecting interwoven stories of loneliness and isolation. They take place in Afghanistan, England and India and center around Janan, who lives in war torn Afghanistan. Her husband was badly wounded in the conflict and can't move or speak. Janan 's life becomes an every day tragedy as her husband is an invalid for the rest of his life and can't provide her with a child that she wants so desperately.

She makes a brave decision to travel to a fertility clinic in England, where William, a medical student from Scotland works. William is having a hard time accepting the death of his father who was a commissioned officer to Afghanistan. Janan's and William's paths cross when William secretly swaps the donor's semen to his own.

Rahul is an intellectual living in Jaipur who’s taken to hanging around the bars after the death of his wife. Rahul is arrested following a brawl in a bar and sentenced to six months in prison. On his release, his daughter and son in-law buy him a taxi to keep him out of trouble and away from bars.

William contacts Janan on the pretense of an official check up and arranges to meet her in India, as Afghanistan is too dangerous. William, wanting to be a father to his son, confesses all to Janan in their meeting where she learns not only who the father is but that the baby she will give birth to comes from a family with long standing connections to the military and were part of the forces on the ground in her homeland. Janan, now in despair and having mixed feelings towards the baby growing inside her, seeks help from Rahul, who finds solace in helping her find her way home.

Utopia was directed by the Afghani Hassan Nazer (his previous credits include Black Day and Inja Iran), who says: "Making Utopia was a blessing for me. I’m an immigrant myself, and what is an immigrant? It’s someone who has made a huge and decisive leap in his or her life and is now living in a different part of the planet, a new life, within some new kind of cultural rules. That’s what the Heroine of our film Janan has done. She has taken an enormous decision on the cusp of her middle age. A decision that has a huge impact on the other two main characters’ journeys through life."