Asylum, presented by New Story Productions for the Toronto Fringe Festival 2021, is a short film/dance piece that follows a young Iranian man’s attempt to be granted asylum in Canada. After two friends have been murdered by family members for being gay, Amir fears for his own safety.
Stuck in Turkey, faced with the cold, bureaucratic voice of the interviewing agent, he pleads his case while traumatic memories intrude. These memories take the form of dance/movement segments.
Choreographed by Armon Ghaeinizadeh and performed by him and Tina Bararian, these dance segments are visually striking. Lyubomyr Bolonnyy’s videography really shines here, elegantly tracking the performers movements while also capturing the beach and water at sunset. A big fan of dance in natural environments where performers interact with the terrain, I loved the textures of sand and water.
These dances are meant to convey the intense emotions of the events they represent, but they feel very studied. There is a raw desperation that comes out briefly in Ghaeinizadeh’s spoken scene, but that visceral intensity is missing from the movement.
There is some effective dramatic build-up in Justine Christensen’s intercutting between the interview and dance segments. The core story and artistic concept are intriguing, but Asylum seems to be striving more for aesthetic than emotional impact.