AFRICAN VIOLET – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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The Iranian domestic drama African Violet, directed and co-written Mona Zandi Haghighi, is an elevated soap opera of sorts that revolves around an unusual three-way relationship. At its center is Shokoo (Fatemeh Motamed-Aria), a strong-featured yet still attractive middle-aged woman who is happily wed for a second time to the virile Reza (Saeed Aghakhani).

But when the big-hearted homemaker, who also runs the family’s wool-dying business, learns that her frail and sickly ex-husband Fereydoun (Reza Babak) has been placed in a nursing home by their daughters, she decides to bring him to her house so he can recover. It doesn’t take long for emotions to simmer to the surface and get as entangled as the strands of brightly colored dyed wool drying in her courtyard.

Secrets, lies and also some long-held truths bubble up to the surface as Shokoo tries to keep the two males in her life satisfied as best as she can, serving them food and helping then find common ground with their shared love of backgammon. Her extended family further complicates matters as they bring their own crisis into her home but, against all odds and overcoming their male egos, Reza and Fereydoun find common ground with their fondness of Shokoo and even have each other’s back by the end of the film. While some specifics of Iranian culture are on display, African Violet is universal in its approach to everyday people and their daily lives.

EDITOR’S NOTE: African Violet is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for August 21, 2020

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.