Review by: John Bandler
Written and performed by Izad Etemadi, Borderland is the personal and engrossing story of protagonist Navid, a homosexual Iranian man who tries to escape the oppressive Iranian law and cultural and family stigmas against homosexuality and homosexual acts.
Navid is smuggled across the Iran-Turkey border in a truck. According to Etemadi’s one-man script, “sodomy is punishable by death, so long as both active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will.” This edict becomes the backdrop to the narrative, to the life and aspirations of protagonist Navid.
Borderland itself is a fictional place somewhere inside Turkey. Here, Navid finds himself helpless against exploitation and mistreatment by the likes of Zia, a people and cocaine smuggler. He also meets a woman called Leila, who has her own unique story of marginalization by Iranian society. From Borderland he applies for refugee status. Whether he succeeds or fails and what becomes of him is at the heart of the suspense, which unfolds through word, music, and flashback.
There are some rough edges to the script, for example, some of the Canadian colloquialisms. It also seems to me that the flashbacks to Navid’s youthful homosexual relationships in Iran are sequenced rather late in the unfolding events. I’m also a bit troubled by Leila’s accent (performed by Etemadi) that is used perhaps to distinguish her from the other characters, but detracts from her authenticity.
Still, kudos to the writer. This is a brave, thought-provoking show and performance, fearlessly facing and addressing mature subject matter, confessing to details that if indulged in would widely attract shunning by Iranian parents and family, if not attracting the death penalty. “Why do they kill people for being happy?” says Navid. Why indeed?