(directors: Sara Nodjoumi, Till Schauder; cinematographer: Till Schauder; editors: Gretchen Hildebran, Simeon Hutner; music: Sussan Deyhim; cast: Nikzad (Nicky) Nodjoumi, Masud Shafie Monfared; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sara Nodjoumi, Till Schauder;  HBO Documentary Films; 2023)

“A compelling history lesson in intolerance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Iranian married couple of Sara Nodjoumi, in her directorial debut, and Till Schauder (“The Iran Job”/”When God Sleeps”), co-direct this art-based political thriller and gossipy family drama. It plays out as a compelling history lesson in intolerance and a personal tale of an artist so blinded by the need for political change that he passionately backs a more repressive regime than the previous one he hated.

The co-directors try to convey what the idealistic modern artist Nikzad (Nicky) Nodjoumi was all about, warts and all. It shows him in exile in America, 40 years after a 100 of his paintings were confiscated by the Islamic Republic after  shown in 1980 at the Tehran Museum and thugs disliked one of his paintings so much they rioted.

Nikzad (Nicky) Nodjoumi is a prominent Iranian artist, the father of Sara Nodjoumi, who believes art to be always political and personal. In his art, from the 1960s, which he did from the States, he expresses his dislike of the Shah and of Israel. Nicky returns to Iran to support the Islamic Revolution that came to power in 1978 with the coup by Ayatollah Khomeini, who ruled as a dictator and turned Iran into a repressive Islamic state.

In 1980, at a time of political unrest, Nicky’s paintings are deemed as not fit for the Islamic Republic, even though the artist was a supporter of the revolution and the Shah supporters hated his new art exhibit.

Nicky’s support for the revolution led to his divorce from his artist wife Nahid Hagigat, Sara’s mother. After his art was confiscated by the museum, he and his daughter moved back to America, as he feared for his life. Once settled in Brooklyn, Sara Marries Till.

Some 40 years after his paintings were confiscated, the artist and his daughter unsuccessfully try to retrieve the paintings.

The most disheartening scene was with the rigid father and his saddened daughter interacting, showing how far apart they have become.

The film was insightful on the Iranian dissidents covered, but tried to do too much–being a family drama, a political thriller and a revolutionary film on art, and lost its mojo.