Title: The Green Wave
Director: Ali Samadi Ahadi
A striking and powerful documentary overview of the populist protests that rocked Iran in June 2009 and helped spark the so-called Arab Spring movement, “The Green Wave” serves as an inventive registering of terrible turmoil, upheaval and governmental crackdown. Working with animator Ali Reza Darvish, director Ali Samadi Ahadi weaves together recreated blog postings and eyewitness accounts with interviews of prominent human rights activists and Iranian exiles, and in the process achieves something fairly remarkable — a record not only factual but equally emotional, capturing the electric sweep of feeling, and commingled hope and despair of the younger generation in Iran and, indeed, throughout much of the Middle East.
In the wake of what was widely regarded as a rigged presidential election victory by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over progressive candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, democratic demonstrations and protests overwhelmed the streets of Tehran. This was notable as something never before seen in the Middle East. Citizens in many other countries, both Muslim and secular, took note. Revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have since then toppled regimes, and civil war continues in Syria. Other countries — Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan and Oman, to name a few — also saw massive protests.
Iran, however, was and remains of special interest. In the news as a pariah because of its nuclear program, the populist uprising put an international face on the average Iranian, showing a desire on their part for fairer social policies, more governmental transparency, and arguably a greater and more conciliatory engagement with the world community. The Ahmadinejad regime’s brutal crackdown — with the certain blessing of the ruling mullahs — unleashed a band of knife- and club-wielding thugs on motorcycles, who roamed city streets beating men, women and children alike. Many more green-clad activists were arrested, and then beaten and/or raped, decried as treasonous “non-believers.”
“The Green Wave” documents this government-sanctioned brutality and murder, in a manner not unlike Israeli filmmaker Ali Folman’s 2008 “Waltz With Bashir,” which depicted refracted memories of his experience as a solider in the 1982 Lebanon War. It dramatizes, but also contextualizes and universalizes, with the animated segments and various textual social media updates serving as an artful counterbalance to the pulse-quickening cell phone videos (some graphic) of panicked demonstrators fleeing the wrath of their countrymen.
If there are criticisms, it’s that ”The Green Wave” could benefit from a bit more surgical precision in its exposition and timeline of events and, at only 80 minutes, could also afford to plumb a bit deeper, either via updating the struggle in Iran or — perhaps more dangerously — attempting to rope in voices of hardline law and order. By proxy, one haunted militia member confesses terrible atrocities to his cousin, who recounts the conversation. It’s a grim and heartrending sequence — and a reminder that there were hundreds if not thousands of people that carried out these dark orders. Still, “The Green Wave” is an impactful snapshot of the human yearning for dignity and freedom. It serves as a reminder, as one interviewee stresses, that despotic regimes in power today may not be in power tomorrow, and that public records like this — unthinkable a generation ago — will serve as an important first draft of history of their crimes.
NOTE: “The Green Wave” opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall and Laemmle Town Center 5, and in New York City at the Cinema Village, among other theaters. Additionally, it is available on VOD, and through crowd-sourced screenings. For more information on the latter, visit www.tugg.com/thegreenwave.
Written by: Brent Simon