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Directed by Arash Eshaghi
60 min | 2019 | Iran
Presented in Persian with English subtitles.
“I have been wishing to dance on the stage for 30-40 years.” The eighty-year-old grandfather wears elaborate, sequined gowns and knitted shawls. Before the revolution, he danced as a woman in cabarets all over Iran. This poignant documentary looks at a man near the end of his life who has keep his art alive with great tenacity in a place and time where dancing, female performance, and atypical gender expression were suddenly forbidden.
It is a haunting film about artistic expression and queerness in a repressive conservative society where such things are not tolerated. The main character in this documentary (who remains nameless throughout) is determined to share and express his art despite all the obstacles.
Labeling the man as queer brings up questions about queerness. It isn’t clear that he would describe himself that way, as a happily married man with six grown children, though from a western perspective we might label him an Iranian Drag Queen.
A farmer in a rural village, he lives his life and reflects on his art and its expression over time. You sense that he is not rejected by his village but that he fails to meet the cultural expectations. This lack of conformity has resulted is harassment and abuse by the state in the past. Iran is often known for this brutal repression of peoples’ free expression, but the film gives a sense of humanity to Iran and the people living there.
In a moving scene, he stands in a cemetery and recalls a list of friends who used to play musical instruments for him. Due to time and repression, now only he is left. The film dwells on the melancholy of age and obstacles to living one’s truth, but the film’s nameless subject remains an artist, affirming that everywhere is a stage for the one who wants to dance.
Preceded by a short film.