Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reel Indie Film Festival Review - No Land's Song

September 19, 2013 is the date when the first concert featuring a female solo singer in Iran took place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. No Land's Song recounts how the concert came to the stage lead by the driven and determined Sarah Najafi. From a smiling Sarah Najafi on stage the scene jumps back two and a half years to Sarah discussing with some female friends the times before the revolution focusing on classic Iranian female soloist from the two glory ages of the 1920's and 1960's.  Next she heads to the Ministry of Culture and the Department of Music for her first encounter with the State in the film.

Director Ayat Najafi (Sarah's brother) presents this first and all encounters with the State in a very effective manner. They are all audio only featuring a completely black screen with the subtitles popping up as the dialogue fills the theatre. This format forces the viewer to focus on the dialogue gaining an insight to the slow prodding and often reversing pace of the State.

Sarah decides that the best way to pursue her goal is to make the concert a two country effort. Her reasoning that the State would be more apt to shut down an Iranian only event but not want to risk international attention in stopping or angering foreign performers. To do so she enlist Elise Caron and several of her Paris based musician colleagues.

The production boldly points out the artistic history of Iran. Showing the Tehran Theatre with flashbacks to its glory in contrast to its modern use as a big vast open storage facility for large spools of electric wiring. The other historic building featured is the Grand Hotel where 1920's singing icon Qqmar gave her first concert. The building, now a shadow of its former elegance littered with broken windowpanes and overgrown foliage brings a sadness over Sarah as she tours the courtyard. Another educational look into the past occurs when Sarah visits a tea house in the centre of town. Sarah discusses with the seasoned men in the building life in the sixties in the area.  They remember fondly the music clubs formally on the block, women singing freely, drinks to be had by all and late nights out revelling.

Perhaps the most telling and frustrating exchanges in the film are between Sarah and a local religious leader. Sarah appears respectfully with her hijab properly in place, speaks rationally as to why she wants to put on the concert looking for support. The response she gets includes various phrases to do with women being tender and men getting too excited in their presence and if this concert goes on men will go out of control leading to dire consequences. The reaction is not that surprising as local musician lair comments that this is a society that discourages women from speaking to strange men.

No Land's Song is an engaging look at a compelling subject. The film manages to keep and build suspense on Sarah success eventhough the opening scene shows that her project made it to the stage.
It's a good study on how to get a diffucult goal accomplished, completing it  may lead working both inside and outside the system.  It is a film I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

No Man's Land | Ayat Najafi| Germany/France/Iran | 2014 | 93 Minutes.

Tags; Documentary, Islamic Law, Ministry of Culture,1979 Iranian Revolution, Music, Female Soloist, Activism, Hijab.

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