The 10th annual Austin Asian American Film Festival held a free screening last weekend to showcase its nominees for Best Narrative Short. “Lunch Time,” directed by Alireza Ghasemi, is a 15-minute Persian film about a young girl who has been called to the city morgue to identify her mother’s body (she also received the news that her mother passed in this way).
In the first half of the short, the viewer begins to see the great obstacles she has to face in order to be allowed to identify the body, despite the fact the fact that they were the ones who contacted her to come identify it. Because she is a minor and owns no kind of photo ID, the receptionist will not allow her to enter the morgue without the accompaniment of a guardian, even though she is there to identify the body of her mother. Upon being asked if she has an uncle or grandfather who can accompany her, she explains that her grandfather passed away, her uncle is in rehab and that she is the eldest of her household. Still, she is not allowed into the morgue until she begins to make a scene whilst begging the receptionist to allow her to enter. After a few moments of waiting, she is allowed in. It is during this second half of the film, that a new layer of the plot begins to unfold, and things are no longer what they seemed to be.
When she sees the body, instead of telling the mortuary if it is her mother right away, she asks for a private moment with the body. She then begins searching the body for something in particular. When she doesn’t find it, she pulls out a plastic bag and a spoon from her backpack and pries it out of the mouth of her mother’s corpse.
The protagonist also has a noticeable black eye and it is acknowledged by more than one character in the film. However, whenever she is asked about how she got it, she pauses and says she “fell at school”. After exiting the morgue we see her meet up with an older man riding a motorcycle. After giving him what she retrieved from the corpse, she attempts to walk away from him but he continues to grab her until she gets on the bike with him. It is near the end of the conversation that we find out that the two are related.
“Lunch Time” provides a look into what can be the harsh reality of many young girls in foreign countries such as Iran. From being unable to do something like enter a hospital morgue to identify your mother’s body, from simply having the freedom and ability to make your own decisions and actions. While “Lunch Time” was definitely not a happy ending, it did a wonderful job at peaking the viewer’s interest as well as wrapping up the plot in such a short time frame.
Check out the trailer: