Man’s first step on the moon, Tiananmen Square, Auschwitz. These are some of the images that flicker across the screen.
Meanwhile, as a man and woman discuss these pictures, an image of 11 people being executed appears.
Remodeling the touching and heartbreaking Pulitzer prize-winning photo, Firing Squad in Iran, A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution aims to recreate the historical moment of the execution of 11 people during Iran’s revolution of 1979. The film, made in Montreal and directed by Concordia student Bahman Tavoosi, is “the story of a photographer whose photo becomes seen and celebrated around the world but he himself remains anonymous for a long time to save his life.”
In this meta-docudrama, Tavoosi traces the two-year period in which he tries to recreate the famous picture with actors, by constructing the set to resemble, as closely as possible, the same environment of the picture. We follow the auditions, rehearsals in the studio and the hours of research.
Creating the ambiance of the revolution tension with the presentation of original clips, the film perfectly involves its audience in the emotions of the victims. It was not enough for Tavoosi that the set be a copy of that of the photo’s, he was determined to have the perfect casting. It was imperative that the actors understand the power of the photo, consequently, the team he assembled had had their own experiences with oppression.
“For my generation, growing up in post-revolution Iran, films played very significant roles,” replied Tavoosi when asked about his motivation to make this film. “From a very early age, we grew up watching the works of the world independent masters of cinema, since any Hollywood products were banned. It therefore shaped a certain aesthetic and understanding of cinema among my generation which later on impacted our artistic path.”
A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution is as emotionally engaging for its director as it is for the audience as we see the reactions of the actors being rounded up in a bus, taken to the location where the execution is to take place and standing in front of the firing squad. Although the original photo was in black and white, the final scene is perfectly lit, shot in full colour adding to the realism of this re-enactment. They say a photo is worth a thousand words but it is this film that fully speaks to the injustices that took place in this turbulent time in Iranian history.