Release Date: TBD
Director: Nahid Persson
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
It’s a pretty safe assessment that most audiences don’t know much about the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In fact in the last thirty years or so it’s very likely that mass audiences’ primary exposure to it were, unless you watched the news regularly, the caricatures and parodies of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Last year’s Academy Award winning Argo was probably the most amount of media attention given the region in the last several decades. However this would be an overly simplistic generalization that does little to draw attention to where it truly matters. Over thirty years ago a people stood up against the Shah of Iran, the Pahlavi dynasty and the social injustices inflicted on his people. Once again in present day Iran images and video of social injustices similar to the past have begun to surface.
Nahid Persson Sarvestani was a communist during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It was a time where anyone who spoke out against the Shah was considered a subversive and was subject to immediate arrest. At the time she was a very outspoken member and was eventually targeted for arrest. When the police arrived to pick her up she was given a brief opportunity to escape by her brother. In that moment she was not only able to escape from Iran but left behind her family, her friends in the revolution and a brother whom she will never see again. Haunted by what she is seeing in present day Iran, she reaches out to other women in the revolution who have since made it out of Iran and searches for answers to her brother’s ultimate fate.
Party affiliation, after all Khomeini was the leader during the Iran Hostage Crisis, is irrelevant in Sarvestani’s potent look at social injustice and the impact it has on those who lived it and were fortunate enough to survive it. For anyone who didn’t know much about the Iranian Revolution this is an eye-opening experience. Sarvestani’s search begins as she wants her daughter to know her roots and she goes through a list of names of fellow dissidents. One name after another is crossed off the list but she is able to get in touch with one woman who she meets. It’s a heartfelt meeting as she hasn’t seen Sarvestani’s daughter since she was an infant. The reunion is most notable by how taken back Sarvestani is when she sees her friend has found religion which is something they would never have done thirty years ago. Not long after Sarvestani invites other survivors to her home in Sweden to share and reminisce about their time in Iran.
The documentary is comprised of frank conversations between the survivors as they discuss the inhuman experiences they endured and the atrocities they were witness to. The camera focuses on the anguish or anger that appears on their faces as they hear about one’s experiences. In one striking scene, while hearing about an execution, Sarvestani can be seen on the left looking very angry and to her right a friend has tears rolling down her face. Two very real, very opposite emotional responses to one event and very likely two emotions the viewer may frequently feel throughout this powerful documentary.
The film is a powerful testament to the unyielding human spirit. It goes to show that in any conflict there are no real winners, only victims. Regardless of where one may side there is no denying that injustices such as this should never be allowed nor should they go unpunished.