TERRESTRIAL VERSES  (Ayeh haye zamini)

(directors/writers: Ali Asgari, Alireza Khatami; cinematographer: Adib Sobhani; editor: Ehsan Vaseghi; music: Masoud Fayazzadeh; cast:  Majid Salehi (Siamak), Gohar Kheirandish (Mehri), Farzin Mohades (Ali), Sadaf Asgari (Sadaf), Hossein Soleimani (Farbod), Faezeh Rad (30-year-old Faezah), Bahram Ark (Bahram, Father), Sarvin Zabetian (Aram), Arghavan Shabani (8-year-old girl), Ardeshir Kazemi (100-year-old man); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ali Asgari, Milad Khosravi; Seven Springs Pictures/Tell Tall Tales/Taat Films; 2023-Iran-in Persian with English subtitles)

“Political change is in the air in Iran, and this newsworthy film tells us why.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The progressive up-and-coming Iranian filmmakers Ali Asgari (“Disappearance”) & Alireza Khatami (“Oblivion Verses”/”Focal Point”) are co-directors and co-writers of this human interest drama. They
present an intriguing series of 9 vignettes (all ranging from six and nine minutes), and a prologue and an epilogue, on the ordinary folks of all ages and genders in modern-day Iran and the problems they go through in their daily lives. It shows a series of cultural, religious, and institutional constraints imposed on them by various unseen bureaucrats questioning the harassed citizen in Tehran.

It takes its title from a Persian poem by the 20th century iconoclast Forugh Farrokhzad.

It opens with a new father (Bahram Ark) frustrated by just trying to register a name for his infant son that’s not approved of because it’s too western. In the fourth verse, a local bureaucrat harasses Sadaf (Sadaf Asgari) over a traffic violation. He claims she wasn’t wearing her hajib while driving. In the sixth, Farbod (Hossein Soleimani) is rudely quizzed about his “abnormal” tattoos while applying for a driving license. In the penultimate dark tale, the filmmaker Ali (Farzin Mohades) has his film chopped up into something meaningless by a softly-spoken but unyielding tyrannical censor.

In the epilogue, there’s a wordless cameo from Ardeshir Kazemi, identified in the credits as the exasperated ’100-year-old man’. He represents both the political and creative inner rage felt by the regular people who are oppressed by the fanatical religious regime.

With the recent angry protests by women over their civil rights infringed on, as a woman was arrested for allegedly violating the hijab dress code. It led to massive street protests and a violent put down of the protest demonstrations by the police.

There’s political change in the air in Iran, and this newsworthy film tells us why.

It played at Cannes.s