In a bold move for a documentary maker, Iranian expat Mehran Tamadon convinced four hard-liners to experiment with a pluralistic society during a two-day shoot at his country house near Tehran.
It took the French-based director two years to persuade them to agree, and when it finally happened the issues discussed included the veil, abortion and freedom of the press.
Tamadon explained what he was looking for was dialogue not provocation: “The idea was to be open, open to discussion. I didn’t just want to make a film about the victims, those who are suffering, I also wanted to talk to those who defend the regime. What are they thinking? At the end of the day, we’ve got to find solutions so we can live together.”
The mood was sometimes contentious, but there was also a great deal of laughter, prayer and cooking.
“The Iranian people are a people who talk, as you can see in the film, we talk,” said Tamadon.
“And that’s important because from the moment there is dialogue, there is less violence. Not all countries have this kind of dialogue. In Iran, we have managed to create a society with dialogue. Sometimes there is a lack of freedom of expression, newspapers are shut down, but dialogue continues to exist.”
In the end, the two days of enforced tolerance did nothing to changed anyone’s opinion.
There are simply too many issues that are non-negotiable with the mullahs. But for Tamadon, the experiment was a success: “There will surely be reforms in Iran. Iranian society will evolve in the long term. It will take a long, long time, but it has to evolve. What I’m doing with this film is sowing ideas, you see. Something will grow from it, later, in another context, maybe not for these four men, but for other people.”
After he finished shooting, Iranian authorities confiscated Mehran Tamadon’s passport. It was returned after a month and he was able to go back to France. But, he was warned that next time, they would take it upon entry.
Having already made a strong impression at film festival in Berlin and Paris, ‘Iranian’ continues its tour of the festival circuit with screenings scheduled around the globe.