After an Islamic judge in Iran condemned Christian
convert Mehdi Dibaj to death in 1993, Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr
launched an international campaign to overturn the sentence. He was
successful. Dibaj was reluctantly freed.
Three days later, Bishop Hovsepian disappeared.
Thirteen years after their father's martyrdom, Joseph and Andre
Hovsepian have created a stirring portrait of religious persecution
that transcends its specific time and place - a portrait that speaks
to the way in which faith and freedom intertwine.
"A Cry from Iran" is an award-winning documentary that seamlessly
blends intimate home videos, hidden-camera footage and distinguished
interviews to create possibly one of the best films of the year.
The gripping documentary begins with details foreshadowing
Hovsepian's martyrdom, then widens its view to include the stories
of fellow faithful also killed, as well as showing their heartbroken
families and unflagging efforts to bring awareness of this social
injustice to the West.
The film is the true story of Iranian Christian leaders killed for
practicing and preaching a faith that defies the country's
theocratic law. Focusing on their father, Haik Hovsepian, the leader
of Evangelical Christians of Iran, the directors provide first-hand
knowledge and footage of the tense religious climate in their native
Playing like a scripted tragedy, some of the clips from the
directors' personal libraries fit so perfectly in the designated
scenes that it's almost jarring. But while we may flinch in the face
of such powerful emotions, the directors do not.
As Dibaj's voice shakes and rises to an almost unbearable pitch at
Bishop Hovsepian's wake, the film becomes a raw depiction of guilt
and grief. The best writers and actors working in Hollywood could
not hope to capture this moment as honestly.
It is unimaginable how the directors, who had to sift through 200
hours of footage that dealt with their father's life and death, were
able to set aside their feelings and focus on the work at hand. But
despite the personal nature of the faith depicted and the suffering
endured, the film does not alienate or isolate any faiths, nor does
it blame a particular religion for causing social injustice.
Instead of pointing fingers, the movie quietly asks all to ponder
the root of fear, to define the universal concept of human rights
and to reevaluate the strengths of their
character. Would they have saved the life of a stranger if they had
known their own was at stake? Would they hear the cries of their
brothers and answer the call?
What makes "A Cry from Iran" so compelling is the brutal honesty and
straightforward manner of all its characters - scholars, relatives
and Haik himself - which helps the film transcend the "religious
documentary" genre to deliver a much more universal tale of heroism.
- "A Cry from Iran" will be screened Oct. 7 and 14 at Alex Theatre,
116 W. California Ave., Glendale.