Finding Farideh (2018)

  • Year: 2018
  • Released: 22 Feb 2019
  • Country: Iran, Netherlands
  • Adwords: 9 wins & 7 nominations
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: Persian, Dutch, English
  • MPA Rating: N/A
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Runtime: 88 min
  • Writer: Azadeh Moussavi, Kourosh Ataee, Eline Farideh Koning
  • Director: Kourosh Ataee, Azadeh Moussavi
  • Cast: Eline Farideh Koning
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Finding Farideh Storyline

Farideh, an Iranian-born girl who lives in the Netherlands with her dutch family, wants to finally find out who are her real parents in Iran. She was left alone in Imam Reza’s Holy Shrine in Mashhad, Iran, when she was a 6-month baby. She was picked up and delivered to one of the nurseries in Mashhad before being transferred to Ameneh Nursery in the capital, Tehran, Iran. A Dutch couple adopted her and brought her to their home in Amsterdam, Netherlands.She published her story to a number of local newspapers in Mashhad, and was hopeful that her real parents read the story and contact her. After this, 3 families in Mashhad, who apparently have had a similar situation (i.e. leaving a 6-month baby in Holy Shrine), contacted her, claiming that they feel she is their missing daughter.Farideh was told by her parents that visiting Iran can be “dangerous” and therefore, it is not advisable to go back to her home country. Nevertheless, being eager to find her actual parents and see her country and people, she decided to fly to Iran for a short visit after 40 years. In Tehran’s international airport, where she first arrived, all 3 families were present to welcome her home. Upon arrival, she was also welcomed by an Iranian girl, who was her host and translator while staying in Iran. Together, they took a train to Mashhad, Farideh’s home city, where they wanted to take DNA tests to find out which of those 3 families are Farideh’s real family.In Mashhad, blood samples of Farideh and 2-3 representatives of each family were taken, and they were told that final results will be released in a month. During this month, Farideh visited residence all of these families and got familiar with their own stories. All these families had “feelings” and could see “signs” indicating that Farideh is one of their own.After a month, final test results came out and each family was called one by one to be informed about the test outcome. The doctor told all families that there is no match between your DNA and Farideh’s. This made all of them disappointed and upset, but didn’t break the “bond” between them, as they were all emotionally touched. She came back to the Netherlands, bringing with herself a lot of unforgettable memories from home.

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Finding Farideh Movie Reviews

Captivating story

Reviewed by Justin Tuttle. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020.

I highly recommend seeing this movie. I had the chance to view this at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) for the United States premier of the film. Shown to a packed house, the movie is a compelling, emotionally gripping movie that pulls at your heart strings as Farideh (actress Eline Farideh Koning) seeks to find her birth parents in Iran after being adopted and raised as a child by a Dutch couple. The journey to find her birth parents was especially poignant because as a transnational adoptee she never really fit in either with her adopted family or her schoolmates (who bullied her for looking different).

Finding Farideh, a documentary, was directed by Kourosh Ataee (From Iran, A Separation) and Asadeh Moussavi (Discharged). It was written by Kourosh Ataee, Eline Farideh Koning, and Azadeh Moussavi. The sole cast member was Eline Farideh Koning (herein referred to Farideh). It was shot on location in Iran and the Netherlands. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

The movie chronicles Farideh’s journey to find her birth parents. As noted, Farideh never felt like she fit in socially in Denmark. She also had an uneasy relationship with her adoptive parents and brother. She learned that she was adopted out of an orphanage in Mashad, Iran after being left in a public square. Prior to the trip she reaches out online, describing her background to see if anyone thinks they are her family. In an very interesting twist that really adds to the character and storyline of the movie, three separate families believe she may be related to them. When she arrives in Mashad, Iran she has all three families greet her in an emotional meeting. They then go get DNA tested to see who, if any are related to her. The DNA tests take one month to analyze and during the month we learn each of the families painful story of their reasons for why a female infant was adopted out. These included poverty and a kidnapping by an ex spouse. One of the potential birth mothers was especially convinced Farideh was her long lost daughter. Through sobbing tears upon seeing Farideh, she noted many similar physical similarities and was convinced she was her long lost daughter she had been grieving over. She described a life of anguish over her baby girl being snatched and spirited away by her abusive ex husband. In a way I couldn’t help but hold out hope that she was the one who was indeed Farideh’s birth mother.

In an especially touching and poignant scene, Farideh visits the actually orphanage in which she was adopted from. She is filmed in a room playing and interacting with young toddlers that were her age. I couldn’t help but think this was a circle of life moment. Farideh had expressed a desire of having children and it dawned on me how amazing that would be if she herself someday adopted one of the children needing good homes.

Many tears were shed both by Farideah as well as myself during this movie. I found myself identifying with the pain felt by Farideh and watched with anticipation to find out who, if anyone, she was related to and if she could find some peace, healing, and reconciliation from the experience. Besides the compelling acting, of significance to me were the beautiful scenes shot in Iran giving me a feel for being there and what it would be like to travel and meet the people of the country.

Farideh spoke after the movie as well as during a filmmakers panel. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and talking about her story and life. I shared with her how this movie for me was topical given the current tenuous political climate between Iran and the US. By seeing regular Iranian citizens engaged in the same trials and tribulations of daily life, this humanized them to me inopposite of the picture painted in the news. Unfortunately, due to the travel ban, the producers and writers still living in Iran were not able to attend and it would have been nice to talk with them as well.

Again, I would recommend this movie. Especially to those that enjoy real life situations and are not simply looking for a feel good, happy go lucky movie.

Eline Farideh Koning at SBIFF, US premier, 1/18/20

Finding Farideh

I often have felt out of sync with others throughout my lifetime but it is hard and somewhat sad for me to accept that my negative reaction to the Iranian documentary “Finding Farideh” should be one of those times. The only review I can find at the moment (6 December 2019) is in the Hollywood Reporter is very positive and includes the phrase “Shot with a gentle, sensitive touch”.

Farideh is a 38 y/o woman who was adopted and raised by an Amsterdam family. Treated differently by her schoolmates, even bullied, ostensibly because of her darker skin, Farideh felt hard done by and out of place. As the movie progresses and we get to know Farideh, I began to wonder about the accuracy of her version of these events. Obviously, well-educated and most probably a member of the upper class, as evidenced by scenes of her having meals with her family in a beautiful home and, especially for me, the scene where she is getting a cosmetic facial, I sensed I may be watching someone privileged rather than a person hard done by. She also mentions that she fell out with her adopted family. I wondered if the reasons she ‘didn’t fit in’ with her schoolmates and eventually her own family wasn’t the color of her skin but something to do with her own personality. This feeling gradually intensified for me as the movie progressed.

The reason d’etre of the movie is what I found most objectionable, bordering on unbelievable. By placing online notices on Iranian websites, Farideh has identified and established contact with three different families that are positive she is their long-lost daughter/sister/niece/cousin. In order to ascertain which family she truly belongs to, Farideh decides to go to Iran and meet the three families. Then she and a member of each family will take a DNA test to decide which family ‘wins’. This is the basic plot of this documentary.

She arrives in Iran and perversely, in my opinion, meets, hugs and kisses all three families at the train station in full view of the others as if each were her long-lost family. At the end of the film some to the family members who ‘lost’ said they hated seeing her kissing the other families. How painful it must have been for them. Then she goes to each of the three homes (more hugs and kisses) and talks with them about how and why their families abandoned her. Over all three meals there was lots of laughing, crying and celebrating for this decades-long, constantly hoped for reunion.

Finally, the DNA tests are conducted and the results are in. All three families are summoned to the clinic to receive the results at the same time. Why would any decent, caring person do this to these families? The only answer that makes sense to me is that they thought the spectacle of grief and pain generated would make a good movie. Indeed, this film has been nominated by Iran in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category for the 2020 Oscars and was nominated for awards at several movie festivals.

Taking the approach she did to finding her birth family, Farideh (and the film makers) had to know that she was raising the hopes of all three families to an extremely high level. She knew, at best, two of the families would have their hopes raised only to be dashed. As it turned out, and I couldn’t help feeling it was a relief to Farideh, none of the families were hers and all three had their hearts ripped out and stomped upon by this selfish, totally unnecessary act of emotional violence. Yes, she wept as did all the families, some members almost hysterically. One would-be brother yelled at the doctor “Is this a joke?” and then visibly broke down in disbelief. The heartache and grief was palpable.

How should this have been done? First of all I see no reason why Farideh, once in contact with the families, should foster or encourage any type of premature relationship over the internet or otherwise. This she did via Skype, emails, etc. Secondly, why not conduct the DNA tests before she meets any of the families and any hopes are raised and false relationships have a chance to develop? Did she even need to go to Iran? For the sake of argument let’s say all parties had to be present to conduct the tests. Then go to Iran but again do not have contact with any of the families until the tests are conducted and the results are confirmed. This would avoid or significantly decrease the level of disappointment for her and the families involved if none proved to be her family. Of course, this wouldn’t be much of, or any, premise for a movie, let alone a possible award-winning one.

I strongly disagree with the critic from the Hollwood Reporter that this movie was “Shot with a gentle, sensitive touch”. Rather this film is one of the most violent movies I have ever watched. The emotional and psychological violence perpetrated upon these three families was purposeful, contrived and brutal in the extreme. I completely understand any adopted person feeling out of place and having a strong desire to connect with their biological family. But to do so in such a self-centered, insensitive and unkind manner as depicted in this documentary is disgusting.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I seem to be totally out of sync with others who have seen this film and have posted positive comments on the internet. It is somewhat baffling to me that no one sees this as a cruel act of emotional vandalism for the sake of making a movie.