Stanley & Afsaneh, played by Paul James and Dea Julien respectively, is a modern day forbidden love story with a political twist. Throughout the film, we follow Stanley, a twenty-something New York City local as he quietly goes about his day, all alone. It isn’t until the end of his day when we see him come to life: a Skype call with his fiance, Afsaneh. Their wedding is on hold, but not for the usual cliche reasons used in nearly every dramatic romance since Romeo and Juliet. We come to find out that there is no family disapproval, no historic feud, but rather something simultaneously much more dramatic and real: Afsaneh is stuck in Tehran due to the US Muslim travel ban.
Looking closer, the film itself is cyclical, with Stanley waking up to the same laptop he fell asleep next to the previous night. This loop-like quality drives the film’s message and heartache even further, showing just how long-term their separation has become and emphasising the pain and loneliness that accompanies it.
Stanley & Afsaneh is a tender yet forceful political piece in direct opposition to US President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban, which restricts travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, like Afsaneh’s home country of Iran, regardless if they are a citizen or not.
Writers and Directors Jams + Bash are not shy about making a statement here. They gently place the viewer into Stanley’s world of pain, while never having Stanley nor Afsaneh explicitly mention the ban. Instead, Jams + Bash insert information about the travel ban on a title page before the final credits, really emphasising that while the film itself may be fictional, the problems and heartbreak it represents are very real.