The desire for connection and the feeling of being an outsider in mainstream America are themes that are perfected in “Fremont,” director Babak Jalali‘s micro budget black and white film. Perfectly cast, beautifully written, acted, shot, and edited, this quiet and thoughtful film is a rare gem of indie cinema.
Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) is an Afghan translator who was previously employed by the U.S. government. Living alone in Fremont, California in a building with other immigrants, she now works for a Chinese fortune cookie company in the nearby San Francisco. Donya struggles with insomnia and a mundane route, but all of that changes when she is gets a promotion at her job and will be tasked with writing the fortunes that go into every cookie. Searching for companionship and connection, Donya decides to send out special messages in her cookies that will be ready by strangers throughout the Bay Area.
The film has a vintage quality with a nice dose of melancholy as well as organic humor, and the themes are reminiscent of the work of Jim Jarmusch, including a sense of cool isolation and loneliness. The unglamorous realities and struggles of building a new life and creating a personal version of the American dream are shown in leisurely detail, and Jalali takes his time to tell the story. The film is a droll character study that isn’t packed with a lot of plot or action, but it’s more of an observational experience that explores Donya’s day-to-day routine.
Jalali has an excellent eye for directing, and the film is visually appealing with some gorgeous cinematography (by Laura Valladao). The story is slow-moving but worth the investment in the end, which makes “Fremont” a project that thoughtful viewers will appreciate.
By: Louisa Moore