|Index||4 reviews in total|
The Green Wave is a shocking documentary film combining pieces of video
and textual footage about about the civilian movement of the Iranian
presidential election in 2009. The film includes interviews of several
bloggers, and also the Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi gives
criticizing comments on the election fraud.
In the film, a layer of animation is used to tie the narrative of bloggers to the actual video footage from demonstrations. It is a nice trick that makes the film look better on screen even though the most of the shown footage is actually taken with a mobile phone camera and thus is of low quality. The style of animation reminds me of Persepolis, an animation film (2007) that takes place around the Islamic revolution of Iran (definitely worth watching for a viewer interested in modern history of Iran).
The documentary cannot avoid sentimentality, as some scenes are very violent and make the viewer feel very bad. The film is not actually very political: It does not attempt to explain the real differences between the ideologies of the presidential candidates Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Instead, it shows cruelties of the regime, and how it suppresses the voice of young and educated voters who want change.
The Green Wave is a documentary that does not look very far behind in time. It is actually telling about an uprising that is still, to some extent, going on, and nobody yet knows the final outcome of the series of events. Thus, it is a product of its time, and may not hold time very well. The main rationale for showing this film to people around the world is to inform them about the injustice in present-day Iran.
As a background, I recommend the excellent three-part documentary series "Iran and the West" from BBC (2009). It describes the evolution of Iran from the era of Shahs until the time before the latest controversial election.
The Green Wave is just a taste of what documentary filmmaking might
become in the era of social networking. The film is a collage of real
life footage and animation, based entirely on blog posts that were
written by a number of anonymous Iranians who experienced the aftermath
of the election chaos in Tehran. Aesthetically there are certain
parallels that can be drawn between The Green Wave and another
political animation film, Waltz with Bashir. But unlike Wlatz With
Bashir, The Green Wave uses its animation segments not to make
intellectual statements on the terrors of war, but to fill in holes
between the personal stories of showcased bloggers and the footage that
the director of the film managed to access over the internet. The
narrative is powered by the blog updates in a very un-cinematic way and
so the images are merely the illustrations of the terror the Iranians
had to embrace.
The collection of different personal takes on the political situation in Iran although not quite imaginative in its use of cinematic language, is definitely needed and was certainly appreciated by the audiences at Sundance. The bravery of the people who agreed to show their faces on the screen and make clear statements against the Ahmadinejad's regime are admirable; Ali Samadi Ahadi uses the means of social networking as a crucial tool in obtaining information about the abuse caused to the Iranian people during the unfair election of 2009 and does it very poignantly and with heart. He proves that even such atrocious regime as the one conducted by Ahmadinejad cannot withhold the truth completely in the era of facebook and Google. Most importantly though, Ahadi shows that as the means of communication change rapidly so does the language of cinema and so the political filmmaking must remember to reach for new sources of information and look for new forms of expression.
Iranian expatriate Ali Samadi Ahadi's documentary concerns a crucial
moment in recent Middle Eastern history: the so-called Green Wave (also
known as the Green Revolution) was the reform movement in Iran among
intellectuals and young people in the spring and summer of 2009 that
hoped to take out President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and replace him with
reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi through democratic elections. There was a
promise of a new blossoming of democracy. Thousands braved the streets,
like demonstrators in Egypt in January 2011. When Ahmadinejad won by a
landslide, indicating a fixed election, the strong negative response
was brutally repressed. Though it failed, this movement, with its
reliance on new media like Twitter and Facebook, may have been the
first strong example of the spirit of revolt against repressive regimes
that is currently sweeping across the Arab world. Ahadi integrates
Facebook reports, tweets and videos posted on the Internet into the
film along with drawings and animations as well as archival street
footage of the cell-phone kind often seen on Al Jazeera and talking
heads, which include young dissidents beaten and imprisoned during the
uprising -- and in a formal interview among many, Shirin Ebadi, the
stolid but forceful Iranian Nobel Peace Prizewinner.
Despite all this The Green Wave, not entirely through the fault of the filmmaker perhaps, is both essential and disappointing. It is not only an anguished cry of despair but lacks the seeds of new hope, and there's more weeping than shouting, so you wonder where the courage went and what can be and is being done now.
The format gives rise to comparisons with Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir, the vivid Israeli film that combined animation with documentary, as well as Persepolis, Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's animated summing up of her graphic novel autobiography. The Green Wave's drawings and animations may show some stylistic debt to both of these, but this film is not as involving and strong as they are, nor, despite the use of so-called "real-time" Twitter or Facebook entries, is it as innovative.
Nonetheless Ahadi does his conventional job of describing the events of 2009 in Iran well, with many voices heard from and a day-to-day account of the main events. The disappointment is in the context of more recent revolts, the failure to delve deeper into the movement's origins, its leadership, its organization, and its current status. Mostly this film turns out to be a lament, one long wail, underlined by the frequent use of a cello background. There are many tears, and much hopelessness. And there is no great subtlety in the emotional propaganda. As Variety critic Leslie Felperin notes, "Characters in the animated material, for instance, are often posed in such heroic stances they recall propaganda posters from the Soviet era," and Ali N. Askin's string-heavy score "attempts to milk the tear ducts with such ferocity, some auds may feel bullied by the string section."
The most memorable segments are the excerpts of blogs voiced by actors Pegah Ferydoni and Navid Akhavan and brought to life with animations by Ali Reza Darvish in as style like that of a graphic novel. Two of the accounts (neither identified by name) are by a youthful protester who was later arrested and tortured, and a young female supporter of who works for opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's election campaign. The film establishes what is already well known: that polls indicated Moussavi would win by a wide margin and that the negative reaction to his questionable defeat was brutally repressed, with the blessing of Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei. The shot of Khamenei putting the seal on Ahmadinejad's fake reelection with a kiss is one of the most repellent in the film.
Also interviewed, besides Shirin Ebadi, are journalist and Green Revolution eyewitness Mitra Khalatbari; law professor Payam Akhavan; human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr; journalist-blogger Mehdi Mohseni; and Shiite cleric Mohsen Kadivar -- all strong opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some may need to know that Ahmadinejad is unpopular and, like the Arab leaders, is a despot. Most who follow world events will be aware of this, and may want a little more searching reportage than Ahadi provides. It might be more interesting just to know how he made this film, and where. He lives in Germany, where the film was produced.
The most hopeful note we get comes toward the end of the film when former UN prosecutor Payam Akhavan calls the Green Wave as "seismic shift, the democratic tidal wave" and says that eventually the oppressors who quashed it, whose actions are recorded here and elsewhere, will be brought to justice. "They have to understand that their crimes are being documented, are being recorded, and a day will come when they have to answer." Yes, but where, how, and when? When will the predominantly youthful population of Iran have a voice?
The Green Wave was first seen in Germany, where it had a theatrical release in February 2011. Its US debut was at Sundance in January 2011. Seen and reviewed as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, April-May 2011.
A deeply moving, tragic, upsetting, and yet somehow still hopeful
documentary on Iran's brief 'Green Revolution' which for a moment
seemed to promise to bring real change, only to be crushed by a
shockingly ruthless and violent response from the government.
By combining animation (recalling 'Waltz With Bashir') accompanying dramatic readings of blogs by those who lived though those days, combined with video footage of events grabbed on cell phones, twitter messages and more traditional talking head interviews, this documentary feels original and fast moving, combining the storytelling power of fiction, with the urgency and social import of truth.
While we all read the headlines here in America, somehow I didn't really understand how powerful the movement for change really was in those brief days of 2009, nor just how bloody and brutal the repression that followed. As one interviewee points out, the West has largely forgotten about these human rights atrocities in dealing with Iran, focusing instead almost exclusively on the nuclear issue. An excellent film, and important historic document.
|Official site||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|