© Rise and Shine Cinema

Der Sohn des Mullahs (Son of the Mullah)
Sweden 2023

Opening 13 Jun 2024

Directed by: Nahid Persson
Writing credits:

Iranian-Swedish writer-director Nahid Persson Sarvestani has structured a compelling, chilling documentary about the price of truth, freedom, and democracy in Son of the Mullah. Its scope takes audiences on a journey into undisclosed dwellings and a world where firearms of all sorts including Kalashnikovs, bodyguards and guard dogs are a way of life. A world reeking with the breadth and depth of hypocrisy, open corruption, and elaborate deception that is best protected through violent repression. So that no one knows.

Roohollah Zam was born in Iran six months before the revolution; as the son of a mullah he grew up surrounded by men. With the 1979 Iranian Revolution—archival footage is brutal, hard, unapologetic—and the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty, i.e., the Shah of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) was established. The monarchial government was replaced by the theocratic government under control of the Supreme Leader, the once-upon-a-time rebel forces leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, a religious cleric. Once IRI and Ayatollah Khomeini emerged, immediately a dictatorial regime was established. The media was put under IRI’s control and censorship ruled.

Having participated in the Green Revolution, after imprisonment—and torture—Roohollah fled the country with his father’s help and is living in France with his family when Nahid Persson interviews him in 2019. Roohollah’s investigative online platform, Amadnews, is an exposé of corruption, exploitations by the regime with incredibly accurate government facts, insider information, and a plus-two million following that strengthens his dream of a diaspora-funded television station. Roohollah, a warm, good-natured person and loving family man, is also a walking target. Persson also interviews Ali Javanmardi, another Iranian journalist, in Iraqi Kurdistan and under similar conditions. Almost before their eyes, Roohollah somehow is lured away from France and, devastatingly, this time his father cannot help.

The intrigue and suspense build as one set of actions/facts lead to the next, and an unsettling qualm seeps into the film. Nahid Persson’s camerawork, Rostam Persson’s measured editing, and Anders Gradin’s sound design further consolidate the emerging, fuller picture of the deceit—using well-placed moles—perverseness. Giles Gardner was the dramaturgist, Natali Noor’s music engages. The current supreme leader, Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, epitomizes hypocrisy; his children are frauds, embezzlers, and the country is what it is. And Roohollah Zam? “Fighting has its price.” (Marinell Haegelin)

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