“Imagine a bird in a cage. He has forgotten to fly. When he leaves the cage to learn, he either rebels or becomes a misanthropist, a loner, or he forgets to fly at all,” says a young Iranian to Thierry Michel’s camera.

Tue Steen Müller

Previous founder/editor of the DOX magazine.

He is using a metaphor for the life of his own generation as he and many others see it. No future for them. There is anger and despair in his voice, and fear is easy to read in the eyes of some of his friends standing around him. The same young person continues saying straightforwardly that he cannot forgive those who brought this revolution. The Shah is dead and gone and the Prophet (Khomeini) is also dead, but you are not allowed to fly, to live a decent life, is what this young man says. A decent life does not necessarily mean a Western life; other youths express their total confusion as to where to look for a desirable ideology.

IRAN VEILED APPEARANCES. Director: Thierry Michel

That is the main quality of Michel’s documentary: opponents of the regime are given a voice, they come forward and utter their criticism of the religious fanaticism, some would say terrorism, that has caught the religious leadership of the country in a turbulent period when students are protesting and the weakness of the political leader Khatami is becoming more and more evident. Michel shows discussions with people who have been imprisoned and also uses available archive material and scenes from fiction films in a couple of places. He clearly indicates the assaults by the authorities, including an attack on one of Khatami’s close collaborators.

IRAN VEILED APPEARANCES. Director: Thierry Michel

Thierry Michel is not a political analyst; his subject is people and he wants to understand. He deserves credit for trying hard to do so by conveying several interviews with mothers, brothers and sons of war martyrs, by showing us long scenes of religious ceremonies and mass gatherings and by discussions with an imam and a couple who live according to the restrictions dictated by their religion. He lets us watch for ourselves – and we understand as much (=little) as he does as a Westerner.

You have to see some of the many other current films on Iran, including those made by Iranians themselves, if you want to get close to the individuals as human beings. What Thierry Michel does – with commitment and curiosity and using the filming skills we already knew he had from his many Africa films – is to paint a broad picture of a country tragically divided in several ways. The emotions stay with the young people. Will they ever learn to fly?


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