I have to admit that I'm not a student of the Middle East. In fact, I had a big blind spot with respect to it ever since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. And prior to that, I had always swallowed uncritically whatever the US media had told me about conflicts centered around Israel's presence in the region.
So this movie was a real useful and informative experience for me. It gave me a feel for a fairly broad spectrum of life in modern Iran for common, everyday, middle and working class people, young and old, fundamentalist and reformist. I would recommend it highly to anyone interested in the Middle East.
The most important aspect of the film, however, was how it depicted religion's ability to act as a social foundation and glue.
The sequence that showed the meeting that was devoted to the memory of the martyr Hussein was absolutely enthralling and worth the price of admission alone. To see a room full of men sobbing with helpless grief at the memory of one man's sacrifice many centuries before, is nothing short of amazing. It made me appreciate the depth and sincerity of their feeling and it made me envious that I had no comparable heart and soul in my own heavily materialistic and secular life.
Everyone in the west is well aware of the evils that fundamentalism can bring, but how many really appreciate the supremely nurturing and sustaining spiritual aspects of it? I think there is much to learn and appreciate in other's people's beliefs. And this movie helps to show that, as well as a number of other useful, if more mundane, things about Iran.
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