Forced Confessions

Maziar Bahari

England 2012, 58min.

In 2009 filmmaker Maziar Bahari was forced to make a false confession, supposedly having collaborated with the West, and accused of espionage. Many intellectuals, writers, philosophers and journalists preceded Bahari since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The director’s own voice-over and interviews with fellow Iranians who have been through the same ordeal guide the viewer through the history of forced confessions in Iran. No Iranian believes any of them but the ruling regime continues to use them.

Maziar Bahari

Making films under repressive regimes is a huge challenge. Making films about repressive regimes presents challenges of its own. While Morning Fears Night Chants presents a concealed singer’s experience of and contribution to a revolution from the inside, Forced Confessions is a personal indictment of a regime escaped. In both cases, the conditions in which the films were produced are reflected in the films’ styles.

Bahari grew up in Iran and witnessed the 1979 Revolution as a youngster. Studying abroad and working for foreign media made him the ideal scapegoat when another one was needed. During the 2009 ‘green’ protests following the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he was arrested, accused of working for the West and of espionage – he was subsequently tortured, and forced to make a false confession in public, like many of his fellow journalists, academics and other intellectuals.

Forced Confessions presents the stories of Bahari and five partners in this misfortune. Bahari interviewed them and collected additional visual material, such as photos and newspaper clippings. In sequence, and connected by Bahari’s voice-over storytelling and archive images of the Revolution and of confessions, they represent the history of the use of forced confessions by the Iranian regime. Bahari provides further facts, the names and the faces of the perpetrators. The stories span some thirty years, but form a repetitive pattern of intimidation, arrests, ignorant interrogators, torture, public confession and humiliation, and escape.

Morning Fears Night Chants is a small film about a Syrian protest singer, presented by “Syrians within Borders” and surrounded by secrecy. Escaping her conventionalist parents with excuses, an unnamed woman joins the protests after having given the regime some time to respond to its people’s demand. She recounts the circumstances of her youth, the lies she’s been brought up with, the life she was supposed to lead. She relates her decision to join the Revolution: mom and dad have had their chance and now it’s up to the new generation. She starts writing songs about life under Assad, the Revolution, the cry for freedom, and life afterwards, in a better world. The interviews, rehearsals and recordings are interspersed with images of the ongoing Revolution.

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