© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH

Irdische Verse (Terrestrial Verses, Ayeh haye zamini)
Iran 2023

Opening 11 Apr 2024

Directed by: Ali Asgari, Alireza Khatami
Writing credits: Ali Asgari, Alireza Khatami
Principal actors: Bahram Ark, Gohar Kheirandish, Majid Salehi, Arghavan Shabani, Hossein Soleimani

Iranian filmmakers Ali Asgari and Alireza Khatami’s percipient cowritten-codirected debut feature film focuses on the rigid dichotomy between Iran’s (ironclad) societal laws, and its swath of enforcers and the impelled citizens. Juxtaposing examples from both perspectives and using a cross-section of the Iranian community achieves an understated viewpoint for experiencing firsthand the daily demeaning degradations, harassments, and accusations. Their keen-witted screenplay is a series of vignettes containing elements of black humor, irony, and pathos.

Just out of view in the first vignette is a bureaucrat (Ali Asgari, voice) questioning David's father (Bahram Ark) about his and his wife’s audaciousness in their son’s naming; in another, the student Aram (Sarvin Zabetian) is grilled about her darker hair color by the headmistress; Sadaf’s (Sadaf Asgari) transgression was caught by a traffic camera, whereas Farbod’s (Hossein Soleimani) getting a driver license fades as he follows instructions regarding his bodily tattoos—otherwise nonvisible; in both scenarios, they answer to their choices. The tween Selena (Arghavan Shabani), dancing to her headphone music is unaware her freedom is dwindling as her mother (off camera) purchases a manteau (long coat), hijab (head covering) and longer veil to wear over it that she tries on, then discards to continue dancing.

Editor Ehsan Vaseghi’s prudent assemblage depicts young and old, male and female navigating a course through the country’s tricky quicksand of cultural, religious, and institutional challenges. The lower-level citizenry, having a meager amount of power, wield it forcibly. People’s spunk, tenacity, patience, and willful perseverance is amusing, painful to watch and sobering—people want to make their own decisions. Filmed in seven days, Hamed Aslani’s production design allows Adib Sobhani’s camerawork from short distances to watch the nuanced, fluctuating emotional performances. Its powerful, fluid composition keeps Terrestrial Verses grounded in decency, and unforgettability. Premiering in the “Un Certain Regard” competition at Cannes Film Festival 2023, its many wins include Best (Political) Film at Filmfest Hamburg 2023. (Marinell Haegelin)

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