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Faith, freedom worth tears in superb 'Iran'
Click here to see the Article on Daily Trojan website

Naira Kuzmich

Issue date: 10/2/07

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 country.

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.


Copyrightę2007, JFA Productions, LLC                                                                                                          A CRY FROM IRAN