This deadpan delight from Iranian filmmaker Babak Jalali stars real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada as a new US immigrant finding her place the eponymous Bay Area city. Also featuring comedian Gregg Turkington and The Bear breakout Jeremy Allen White.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
“‘The fortune you’re looking for is in another cookie,’ reads one of the many custom fortune cookie messages featured in Fremont a lovely, low-budget mood piece with a hypnotically deadpan temperament… While Iranian filmmaker Babak Jalali’s easygoing fable-like movie serves up such oracular tidbits in abundance, this one defines his central character best. She is Donya (real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada), a lonesome and restless Afghan immigrant working at a family-owned fortune cookie factory in San Francisco by day, and enduring severe insomnia by night, in a Fremont apartment complex that also houses other immigrants from her motherland…
Shot in misty black-and-white and co-scripted by Jalali and Carolina Cavalli with a straight-faced sense of humor, Fremont is a quasi-comedy that strikes a vibe akin to the films of Jim Jarmusch. The biggest achievement of Jalali here is the precise tone that he strikes with his mild-mannered movie: never cutesy (an especially impressive feat considering the film’s whimsically Sundance-y premise), and always several feet deeper in its themes and deliberations around human isolation than meets the eye… In its final chapter, Fremont rewards the viewer with a splendid cameo: Jeremy Allen White (yes, everyone’s favorite chef, thanks to The Bear) appears as a handsome and inquisitive mechanic who’s helpful to Donya—and who might turn out to be something more. In its final moments, the potency of Fremont sneaks up on you. You go in reluctant and even skeptical, and come out wondering how and why you’re moved to tears.” — Tomris Laffly, Variety