Not perfect but a worthy film that is worth seeing for doing more than the headlines
If you listen to the rhetoric coming from both sides of the political divide, Iran is probably the most dangerous country in the world and the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. As a cynical westerner it is easy for me to believe that this is just America talking it up so we can go down the route we did with Iraq, however it hardly helps their case when you have Iranian president Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust and suggesting that Israel should be wiped off the map. Rageh Omaar has reported from Iran before but, on this occasion he looks beyond the rallies and protests that he has filmed before and tries to find the real people in Tehran.
If you make your mind up about an entire country off the back of what Condi Rice says in a short interview on Fox News then you should probably acknowledge that you might not be getting a complete picture. Problem is that we rarely get the opportunity to have more detail or investigation that goes beyond the political announcements and threats. So I welcomed Omaar's investigation where he walks the streets, chats to several women about their experiences, goes to the home of his taxi-driver (a former drug addict) and, accidentally, prays in a road tunnel with President Ahmadinejad.
The aim of the film is worthy but was always going to be a challenge in trying to cover such an expansive subject in a short period. It goes without saying that Omaar does not manage to give the viewer a complete understanding of Iran and its people. However what he does do is provide an insight into the workings of the country that I've not seen presented in the normal news. He is not always that successful in what he tries to do and at times his ability to get answers from people is limited however mostly he does produce interesting discussions. Nothing is a revelation but it does all paint a convincing picture of the country that shows with the restrictive rules and how they are worked with day-to-day. It doesn't shirk away from some issues that the Iranian government would rather were not public such as the drug problem, child labour and others.
Omaar always does have a slightly unreal look (in my opinion) but he is a friendly and intelligence presence, which this approach does need. The camera and sound work is impressive as it is made to look easy even if there are lots of crowded location shots as well as, conversely, lots of tight room and cars. Overall then, this is an interesting and well-made film. It doesn't get to the point where it discusses politics away from the rhetoric but it does do a good job of showing a side of life in Iran that never really comes across in the news reports. Not perfect but worth seeing of what it does.
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