is pretty heavy when an atheist Marxist confesses nostalgia for the Shah of
Iran. Nahid Persson Sarvestani does not express such a sentiment in those exact
terms, but she comes close, readily arguing the Islamist regime that followed
the Shah’s secular authoritarian rule turned out to be far, far worse.
Essentially establishing the Islamist-theocratic corollary to the Kirkpatrick
Doctrine, Persson Sarvestani collects the harrowing oral history of several
former comrades in My Stolen Revolution (trailer here), which screens as
part of the 2014 UN Association Film Festival in the Stanford area.
a teenager, Persson Sarvestani was an ardent leftist, who had no qualms about
joining forces with the Islamic fundamentalists against the Shah. In
retrospect, this was a mistake. She ruefully admits the Islamists had superior
organization, which launched them into power when Carter pulled the rug out
from under our ally the Shah. Soon, the new regime was imprisoning and
torturing proven troublemakers like Persson Sarvestani. Although she was able
to get out of the country while the getting was good, her younger brother was
executed in her place.
nurturing an acute case of survivor’s guilt, Persson Sarvestani sought out
several revolutionary comrades who were not so fortunate, in the hope they
could offer some insight regarding her brother’s final days. However, the
reunion with her former cadre leader does not go so well. Persson Sarvestani is
appalled to find the good leftist has found solace in the Muslim faith she once
rejected. For Persson Sarvestani, that is a deal-breaker.
the subsequent colleagues she tracks down have remained reasonably true to
their ideals. Instead of a misogynistic religion, they take comfort in art.
Unlike Persson Sarvestani they saw the insides of Iran’s political prisons and
lived to tell about it—barely. Indeed, most of the women are dealing with the
lingering pain and physical ailments caused by the extreme torture they
stories are so harrowing it is no exaggeration to say Persson Sarvestani’s
experiences pale in comparison. She is clearly just as aware of this as viewers
will be, yet there is still an awful lot of her throughout the film. When she
invites her new friends on a retreat to share their testimony, the film would
have been better served if she had just stepped out of the way, rather than
making such a point of grappling with her own feelings.
Nevertheless, the women’s individual indictments
of the Revolutionary regime are powerful stuff. Of course, the ruling ideology
and theocratic state apparatus responsible for the physical and psychological
torture of sixteen year old girls remains unchanged. Despite a few video diary
indulgences, My Stolen Revolution is
a timely and valuable film. Recommended for viewers concerned about
international women’s rights, it screens this Saturday (10/25) in Palo Alto, as
part of session 25 of this year’s UNAFF.
Labels: Documentary, Iran, UNAFF '14