Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Manuscripts Don't Burn (orig. Dast-neveshtehaa nemisoosand) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Chicago Tribune (3 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing listing*

Chicago Tribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Cheshire) review

Manuscripts Don't Burn (orig. Dast-neveshtehaa nemisoosand) [2013] [IMDb] [CIN] [IMV] [SC]* (written and directed by Mohammad Rasoulof [en.wikip] [IMDb] [IMV] [SC]*) is a remarkable IRANIAN DISSIDENT FILM that played recently at the 25th Annual Festival of Films from Iran held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago (SERIOUSLY THIS A TRULY REMARKABLE ANNUAL FESTIVAL PUT ON by the GSFC with some very, very, very good advice!  My hat honestly off to you!)

The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it FEPRIZI (Int'l Critics) Prize and it's available (w. English Subtitles) for streaming via the Amazon Instant Video service.

Though fictionalized, it's based on the true experiences of Iran's dissident writer community.  So provocative was the film's content that aside from the writer/director NONE of the actors, editors or crew were credited in the film.

So what's the film about.  It's based on "an incident" (fictional(ized)?) that took place some time in the late 1990s in which a busload of 21 Iranian dissident intellectuals heading (presumably from Tehran) to a conference (somewhere "North") organized "by an Armenian organization" was nearly driven off a mountain road into a ravine by a bus driver who turned out to be an agent of the Iranian secret police.

"How could such a 'fantastic incident' ever have taken place?" asks, sarcastically, an incredulous Iranian government censor / police official mocking an Iranian dissident writer who had chosen to write about the incident, 20 years later, in his memoirs.

"We couldn't believe it either EVEN AS IT WAS HAPPENING," answers the aging writer.

The film then shows the writer explaining in his memoir that the bus driver actually tried to run the bus off the road TWICE even as the dissident writers on-board simply could not believe that the driver had already tried to kill them all the first time though that was obviously the case.  After all, NO ONE "falling asleep at the wheel" would _also_ jump out of the bus at the same time (!).  Yet that what the driver did (jump out of the bus) even though he gave the passengers the excuse (that he momentarily fell asleep at the wheel) when the bus didn't fall off the road ... Yet, so incredible / frightening seemed the incident that the intellectuals believed the bus driver the first time...

Well needless to say, the government censor/official confiscates the manuscript of the Iranian dissident's memoirs to which the writer responds, "I made two other copies of the manuscript and gave them to friends for safekeeping.   If something untoward happens to me, it will get published."

The rest of the film is then, of course, a search for the other two manuscripts...

Now a question could be asked why didn't the Iranian writer just publish the manuscript _online_ (or give a digital copy of it to someone) when he had the chance?

That's a very interesting question ... and a good part of the film involves exploring motivations for why he didn't.  

PART of his motivation (and this is therefore only PARTLY a SPOILER) was that he was using the manuscript as pressure to try to force the government to allow him to just leave the country.  But there's more to the question than that, and it's kinda interesting.

In any case, the film is an EXCELLENT REMINDER (if one ever needed one) that IRAN IS NOT FREE and what Iran's intellectuals go through as they try to be HONEST WITH THEMSELVES in a country whose paranoid regime would really prefer that they just shut-up and if they CAN'T / WON'T shut-up on their own, SHUTS THEM UP - even by torturing them / putting a bullet or two in their heads - ITSELF.

Great film!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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