Director and producer Davoud Geramifard filmed Iran: Voices of the Unheard secretly, without permission from the Iranian government. The documentary focuses on the human perspective, showing how ordinary peoples’ lives are shaped by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime. The viewer spends a day in the life of three Persian citizens, whose names are given only as The Teacher, The Dead Khan, and The Wandering Poet.
The Teacher is a middle-aged, secular man who lived through the Islamic Revolution and cannot relate to the religious extremism of Ahmadinejad’s government. He uses his job as a teacher at an all-boys’ school to educate his students about human rights, telling them: “We live, and breathe in a fanatic atmosphere. But we don’t see it. Don’t see what we are.” He pleads for international help: “Responding today isn’t too late,” he says, “but tomorrow will definitely be too late.”
The next section focuses on the Dead Khan, a member of a nomadic tribe called the Ghashghaii. He talks about the human rights abuses towards the members of his clan, comparing it to the plight of North American aboriginals. He states that members of his tribe were harassed, and even killed, following the Iranian Revolution. Now, he and his family struggle to survive through a three-year drought, with no government help. He claims that they are pressured to become consumers, rather than producers. “We are unable to protect our family,” the Khan’s wife says, drinking tea around a fire in their tent. “Our situation never gets better.”
The final section takes place in Tehran, a bustling metropolis that stands in stark contrast to the desert scenes. The Wandering Poet, an angst-ridden hipster, spends most of his screen time spouting doom-and-gloom messages. “Every day I have to invent a convincing reason for being alive,” he tells the camera. “I wish I had never been born.” Iran, he says, is not much different from North America. “Even where you’re coming from, independent ideas are crushed under tonnes and tonnes of supposedly free media,” he says. The Poet compares Iranian prisons to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Over dinner, he and his friends laugh hysterically over a story of a political prisoner who was beaten up by a guard: “It’s like a freaking slapstick,” one man says. The film ends with footage of violent street protests in 2009.
Despite having to film in secret, Geramifard shot spectacular footage of Iranian landscape and life. Geramifard has a knack for emphasizing the human element, using extreme close-ups of people’s faces and hands. He gives details of everyday life, showing the people he interviews making wine, spinning wool, and even watching porn. Though the documentary doesn’t offer concrete facts or a new political perspective, it’s a must-see because of the personal element that Geramifard brings to the subject of human rights.
Iran: Voices of the Unheard screens at Cinema ParallÃ¨le on March 18 at 5 p.m.