J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Little Brother: Dystopian Cyber-Punk Dedicated to Panahi

Is there a right to hack enshrined somewhere in the Second Amendment? One Nobel Prize nominee believes it should be, as a matter of self-defense in the digital age. Only the free flow of information can undermine a dictator’s sinister plausible deniability. When it comes to exposing the truth, she will walk the walk as well as talk the talk in Cyrus Saidi & Gautam Pinto’s Little Brother (trailer here), a Moving Picture Institute (MPI) supported film, which has recently been released on iTunes.

The country in question is not specifically identified as Iran, but its dictator bears a passing resemblance to Ahmadinejad and the film is dedicated to dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (a classy touch), so you do the math. In a sense, Little Brother is like a strictly serious forerunner of The Interview, in which Jane Vidal, an expatriate activist for freedom in all spheres of life, announces her attention to return to her homeland to challenge the dictator to a debate. This will not be Lincoln-Douglas or even Buckley vs. the statist Vidal. Instead, the dictator will do what dictators do, but Jane Vidal expects no less.

Little Brother does not let the creeping American leviathan state off the hook either. In fact, she will call out its dubious surveillance policies during the same extended interview in which she announces her challenge to the dictator. Although the film is not based on Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, it shares a thematic kinship. However, one gets a sense Saidi and Pinto are far more outraged by Iran’s restrictions on freedom of thought and expression than the American Patriot Act, which means they have a sense of perspective.

They also have a really good cast. Natalie Brown handles some pretty heavy dialogue in Vidal’s interview segment, without sounding like a Randian superhero, but is even more compelling in the grimly inevitable third act. The ever-reliable Stephen McHattie and his radio voice are also perfectly suited to the subtly hostile television interviewer. However, Saidi & Pinto’s real ace in the hole is Nevad Negahban. As he did when playing the cruel husband in The Stoning of Soraya M., Negahban portrays the dictator with a cunning fierceness that is scary because it is scrupulously believable and never cartoonishly over-the-top.

Perfect for Rand Paul voters, Little Brother is a provocative film that cuts across the political spectrum. Fans of dystopian science fiction will also appreciate its intense performances and the polished cyber-punky look crafted by cinematographer Rion Gonzales and the production design team. Recommended for discerning genre and short film viewers, the MPI-supported Little Brother is now available on iTunes.

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