Iran and The Ninth of July

Iran, Veiled Appearances, dir. Thierry Michel, image: sundance.orgThere’s been a great deal of political turmoil in Iran lately, most of it homegrown and not driven by the US administration’s “you’re next” rumblings. Jeff Jarvis has trained a consistent blogging eye on Iranian weblogs, which provide varied and in-depth accounts of student and public protests against the hardline religionists. The ayatollahs and their militant supporters answer calls for reform with violence.
Today, July 9th, is the four-year anniversary of student-led demonstrations at Tehran University, and politically explosive events were feared/planned/anticipated/rumoured as it approached. [As the BBC reports, they happened, too.] But you didn’t learn that from any of the major US news sources. Oh, Iran led the news, but with the sappy story of conjoined twins dying on a Singaporean operating table.
The timing and the ubiquity of this irrelevant tearjerker made me think back to, oh, Sunday, when the NYTimes ran an almost corny article on recently declassified State Dept. documents from the CIA’s 1954 overthrow of the Guatemalan government. When the CIA’s activities were discovered and reported in Guatemala, Headquarters recommended, “If possible, fabricate big human interest story, like flying saucers, birth sextuplets in remote area to take play away.” If it ain’t broke, I guess…
But I was also reminded of an amazing film I saw in April, one which seems eerily important now. It’s making the film festival rounds, and should be turning up on Sundance, the sooner the better. It’s Thierry Michel‘s 2002 documentary, Iran, Veiled Appearances. Michel gives a clear-eyed view at exactly the forces at play in Iran right now: swelling numbers of youth grown tired of revolution, and tightly wound religionists holding back the tide.
I spoke with Michel at length when his film screened as part of the Sundance at MoMA festival a couple of months ago. I suggested he might make a similar film here, in the US, and he admitted that he’d already become fascinated by the possibility. Turns out for a previous film, the excellent doc, Mobutu, King of Zaire, he had interviewed a friend/supporter/partner of the dictator, a man who left quite an impression on Michel. That friend: our own American ayatollah, Pat Robertson.