Iran, Veiled Appearances

Directed by Thierry Michel

58 minutes / Color
Farsi / English subtitles
Release: 2003
Copyright: 2002

Iran has been presented for years as one of the cradles of Muslim fundamentalists, and more recently as a radical Muslim country on the brink of developing nuclear weapons. Iran intrigues the West on more than one account.

Twenty-three years after the Islamic revolution, this country, once again prey to the turbulence of history, is taking the road towards modernity. Faced with a radical Islam advocated by religious orthodoxy, Iranian youth - eyes turned towards the West and exposed to the winds of globalization - can no longer find its place in the religious revolution of its elders. Is the chador today nothing more than the last act of a theocracy threatened by the trend of globalization? Is Islamic fundamentalism soluble in neo-liberalism?

IRAN, VEILED APPEARANCES looks equally at those convinced of a radical Islam and at those who aspire to more freedom. The Iranians, having confirmed their desire for change during the presidential elections, have been conned of their meagre conquests by the power of the most conservative Islamic fundamentalists. It is they who have firm control of the army, the courts and the media and who haven't hesitated to resort to political assassination and to shut off any freedom of speech.

The struggle has begun, and it is impossible today to predict how this desire for change, as expressed democratically by a large part of the Iranian population, will take a concrete form. The power of the Mullahs as well as the field of operation of the Islamic fundamentalist groups is considerable. Oppression of the reforming factions, under the mask of the cult of martyrs of the revolution, does exist.

Students, journalists, intellectuals, artists and even close associates of the reforming president Mohammed Khatami are subjected to political assassination, imprisonment, and psychological and physical torture. A true battle for freedom of expression is shaking the Iranian capital but it is impossible to predict the price that will have to be paid.

"A revelatory examination... Michel's access is remarkable, his insights pointed. The film, of course, couldn't be more timely."—Newsday

"Ventur[es] into dangerous territory, looking for a reality that has little to do with the images to be found in the international press… What emerges is a film that gives a brief glimpse of the complexity of the social fabric in modern Iran, where a desire for modernism chafes against the bedrock of fundamentalism. A courageous film… careful to ground its observations on a realistic human scale."—The Bulletin

"Compelling! Recommended! The testimony of the proponents of democratic reform who have suffered for their beliefs is poignant, and the scenes of their opponents preparing for further retaliatory action carry an ominous power."—Video Librarian

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Select Accolades

  • 2005 National Women's Studies Association Film Festival
  • 2003 Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival
  • 2003 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
  • 2003 DocAviv International Documentary Festival
  • 2002 Amsterdam International Documentary Festival
  • Grand Prize, 2002 Creation Documentary Festival (France)
  • 2002 Joseph Plateau Prize for Best Belgian Documentary


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