Ramin Bahrani – 99 Homes (2014)

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Around the world everyone knows that honest hard work gets you nowhere. In sunny Orlando, Florida, construction worker Dennis Nash learns this the hard way when he is evicted from his home by a charismatic, gun-toting real-estate broker, Rick Carver. Humiliated and homeless, Nash has no choice but to move his mom and nine-year old son into a shabby, dangerous motel. All is lost. Until an unexpected opportunity arises for Nash to strike a deal with the devil – he begins working for Carver in a desperate attempt to get his home back. Carver seduces Nash into a risky world of scamming and stealing from the banks and the government; he teaches Nash how the rich get richer. Living a double life, Nash hides his new boss and job from his family. He rises fast and makes real money; he dreams bigger. But there is a cost. On Carver’s orders, Nash must evict honest families from their homes – just as it happened to him. Nash’s conscience starts tearing him apart… but his son needs a home. Continue reading

Ramin Bahrani – Goodbye Solo (2008)

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From IMDB: “On the lonely roads of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, two men forge an improbable friendship that will change both of their lives forever. Solo is a Senegalese cab driver working to provide a better life for his young family. William is a tough Southern good ol’ boy with a lifetime of regrets. One man’s American dream is just beginning, while the other’s is quickly winding down. But despite their differences, both men soon realize they need each other more than either is willing to admit. Through this unlikely but unforgettable friendship, GOODBYE SOLO deftly explores the passing of a generation as well as the rapidly changing face of America.”

Winner of the FIPRESCI International Film Critics Award – Best Film at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. Continue reading

Ramin Bahrani – Chop Shop (2007)

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Synopsis: Set in Willet’s Point, an industrial sprawl of auto repair shops and junkyards in outer New York City, CHOP SHOP tells the story of 12-year-old Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), an orphan living a hardscrabble existence in the “Iron Triangle.” The boy earns a meager living hustling customers… Set in Willet’s Point, an industrial sprawl of auto repair shops and junkyards in outer New York City, CHOP SHOP tells the story of 12-year-old Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), an orphan living a hardscrabble existence in the “Iron Triangle.” The boy earns a meager living hustling customers into body shops, hawking candy on the subway, and helping to chop up the parts of stolen cars. But he dreams of a better life. When his older sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales) comes to live with him, Alejandro devises a plan to escape their desperate situation: they’ll buy a lunch truck that they can run together. Alejandro begins stashing money, and even indulges in criminal activity to achieve his goal. When he learns a devastating secret about his sister, it makes him more determined than ever to change things. But reality proves a difficult opponent in his struggle for the American dream. Full of naturalistic performances and exquisite handheld photography, CHOP SHOP shows a side of New York that is rarely seen in films about the Big Apple. Its characters, mostly immigrants, inhabit a landscape of rubbish-strewn alleys, deafening expressways, and rusted steel. Manhattan’s skyscrapers and the stands of Shea Stadium loom forever on the horizon. Though some may find the film’s unsparing depiction of poverty difficult to watch, the film is never hopeless, and the humanity of its characters always shines through. Altogether, it achieves an air of documentary-like authenticity that convinces the viewer that, long after the screen goes black, the lives of its characters will continue. Continue reading

Ramin Bahrani – Man Push Cart (2005)

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Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant, struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in Midtown Manhattan. And every morning, from inside his cart he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. He is the worker found on every street corner in every city. He is a man who wonders if he will ever escape his fate. Continue reading

Ramin Bahrani – Plastic Bag (2009)

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Synopsis:
This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo) traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world.

In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex — a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away. Continue reading