QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TRANSYLVANIA
This highly inventive, original and politically explosive documentary examines the relation between Iranian student Zahra and Romanian student Maria. They became best friends while the former was an exchange student in Bucharest in the late 1970s. She returns home during the Islamic Revolution that gripped and rocked her nation in 1978 and 1979, and the two continued to communicate through letters. In 1989, it is Maria’s turn to experience a revolution, when the people of Romania mobilised in order to remove dictator Ceausescu, who ruled the nation with an iron fist for a quarter of a century.
Zahra is full of hope upon seeing the swathes of people that have taken to the street. They include men and women of all ages, very few of them wearing a headcover. The elated young woman joins them. They are seeking to overthrow the Shah, thereby refusing American imperialism and meddling. They don’t want communism, either. They are seeking something entirely new, and the promises of a Islamic Republic seem enticing at first. But then the more conservative forces begin to take control. A group of males chants: “down to the women without a hijab, glory to the women with a hijab”, in a tragic omen of the developments that would follow, and lead to the implementation of a fundamentalist regime. Leftists, intellectuals and firebrand are either arrested or flee the nation. Zahra does not budge, continuing to correspond with her Romanian friend regularly.
Ten years later it’s Maria’s turn to experience a revolution, when similarly enormous crowds take to the streets of the Romanian capital in order to demand the removal and the assassination of their deranged tyrant. They too achieve their objective, but become victims to the machinations of capitalism before they realise. Maria explains to her distant friend that, a year after the Romanian Revolution, the shelves are empty and opportunities equally scarce. What the two revolutions have in common is that they were both “confiscated” by spurious forces with little concern for the demands of the grassroots that triggered change. This is a film the dangerous repercussions of a fractious change. Once a power vacuum is left, it is often the darkest forces that prevail.
This taut and concise 68-minute film is a false documentary. The characters are invented, based on classified Romanian documents blended with the imagination of the director Vlad Petri, who co-wrote the film script (including the imaginary letters) alongside Lavinia Braniste. The narration is infused with poems from Iran’s most famous female poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. Between Revolutions could also be described as mockumentary, however the etymology of the word suggests comic elements. Such isn’t the case here: Between Revolutions is a solemn and meditative affair.
This international co-production between Romania, Iran, Croatia and Qatar is a gesture of dissent. In other words, a small piece of revolutionary cinema. Revolutionary in its unusual format, forging an imaginary story from very real facts, in documentary format. The voice-over is potently delivered on top of impressive archive footage. This must have involved an extensive amount of research, and that comes with many dangers attached (the Iranian co-producer had to remain anonymous). And revolutionary in its content, revealing that the desire for change can be equally liberating and deceitful, be that in Europe of in the Middle East.
Between Revolutions showed in the 22nd Transylvania International Film Festival. DMovies is in loco unearthing the dirtiest gems exclusively for you. The film won the Fipresci prize (Forum sidebar) at this year’s Berlinale.