Posted in Art, Reviews

Desert Dancer

Desert-Dancer-Film-Poster-Plakat-WallpaperSet in Iran, this powerful and unbelievable true story follows the brave ambition of Afshin Ghaffarian. During the volatile climate of the 2009 presidential election, where many cultural freedoms were threatened, Afshin and some friends risk their lives and form an underground dance company. Through banned online videos, they learn from timeless legends who cross all cultural divides, such as- Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and Rudolf Nureyev. Afhsin and Elaheh also learn much from each other, most importantly how to embrace their passion for dance and for one another. (from Wikipedia)

What a powerful and deeply moving film. It weaves an intricate tapestry of beauty (in the dance), friendship, fear, repression, courage, grief, joy.  At times, it is hard to watch but never depressing.  Somehow, even when the police brutality is at its worst, courage, friendship and hope shine brighter.

To escape the constant warchfulness of the religious police, the group invite selected friends to a performance in the desert outside Tehran (hence the name of the movie), giving us what has to be one of the most beautiful dance scenes ever.

One very powerful theme of this movie is the effect the repression by the regime has on individual lives, including this group of friends. From one day to the next, the ballet company in Tehran was disbanded and Elaheh’s mother lost what was most central to her life and identity.  The effect of that plays out even in her daughter’s battle with drugs.  For others, it is the struggle to stand up to pressure, to find the courage not to betray, knowing there would be a personal cost.  You see the hope, with the upcoming elections, then turning to anger, when those appear to be rigged, before leading to despondency, the violence of the state winning out.

Those harsh realities form the backdrop, and they are not romanticised, but they are not the whole picture.  The individual courage, the strength they find in their friendships, the joy that comes from dancing – all those make this a beautiful movie to watch.


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