Currently browsing the "Iran" tag.

Review: Desert One

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-80; but the memories are vague. I recall watching Ted Koppel’s nightly updates (the precursor to Nightline), grieving over news of a rescue attempt gone awry, and celebrating the hostages’ return just as Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in January 1981 after a landslide victory over Jimmy Carter. Desert One recalls all of that – and much more. The documentary is both evocative and enlightening. It offers revealing details of the failed mission to rescue 52 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where they were ultimately held for 444 days. And it serves as a tribute to the sacrifice of eight servicemen who died when a helicopter crashed into a transport plane at “Desert One,” the staging area for the mission, which was in the process of being aborted when the accident occurred.

Review: Coup 53

Looking for a political thriller to suck you in for a couple of hours? Then watch this documentary. Iranian director Taghi Amirani spent ten years filming his obsessive hunt for documents and witnesses to tell the story of the coup d’état that stopped democracy in Iran in its tracks, all because the new, democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh had the gall to nationalize the oil industry. It is common knowledge that the US and UK were behind it, and the CIA has even declassified some of the documents related to their part in it, but the UK and MI6 have never admitted their role. In the film, Amirani is reading through transcripts from a 1985 BBC series called “End of Empire” that talks about Iran when he notices that there is one interview that has been totally redacted. The transcripts are heavily edited to obscure the name. The filmed interview itself is nowhere to be found in the BBC archives. And he knows that this interview could be the key to the whole story.

AFI DOCS 2015 (Days 1 & 2)

Another year, another great set of documentaries! Last year it seemed the festival had more of a theme. This time around, I saw a lot of different kinds of stories. Some were political. Several felt like advocacy pieces. There were many about music and quite a few from Middle Eastern countries. As usual, there were too many to fit in and I missed quite a few that I really wanted to see. I am hoping to get a few screeners from filmmakers that I met at the festival to rectify that situation. This post is of my first two days of viewing.

Rosewater

Jon Stewart’s crossover from host of a hit satirical news show to feature film writer/director was slightly surprising on the face of it. But once you get into Rosewater, you see why this true story was so personal to him. In 2009, Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, donning a silly undercover spy persona, conducted a mock interview in Tehran with Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari for a segment about the country’s elections, which Iranian-born Bahari had returned home to cover. A short time later that interview was actually used against him when he was arrested and charged with spying for the CIA. “Why this man claim to be a spy if he is not a spy?” his interrogator asks in the film. “Why would a spy have a television show?” Bahari answers incredulously. And this was the rabbit hole he fell down — an absurdist nightmare with no room for reality or truth.

A Separation

A Separation won the 2011 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, marking Iran’s first Academy Award ever. It was also nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category, unusual for any foreign film. While the world frets about their nuclear intentions and tension mounts, it is nice to see a fairly non-political depiction of life there. This is a film about relationships and cultures and power and truth, pretty universal themes played out on a very human scale and directed with a masterful hand.