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Sundance 2011. Ali Samadi Ahadi's "The Green Wave"

"How do you show what it was like for the Iranian protesters arrested during the green revolution of 2009?" asks Geoffrey Macnab in the Guardian. "That was the challenge facing Ali Samadi Ahadi when he was working on his documentary about the abortive uprising, The Green Wave. The answer? Get online. The Green Wave is based on first-person accounts collected from tweets, Facebook entries and blogs. It features footage of protests and public gatherings shot on cell phones. But after the government militia turned on protesters and hauled them away to jail, the documentary trail ran cold. That's when Ahadi turned to animation… He says he wasn't influenced directly by other political movies using animation, such as Waltz With Bashir and Persepolis. 'For me, animation was the only way to tell this story, to make this documentary.' The imagery, he adds, was so strong and so disturbing that no physical re-enactment could do it justice."

"Ahadi's fourth film, The Green Wave, competing for the World Cinema Documentary jury prize at Sundance this year, begins as a calmly narrated, fairly traditional documentary," writes Pamela Cohn at Hammer to Nail. "The story is meticulously set up for the viewer, the omniscient narrator speaking in unaccented English in a clearly modulated voice. Through talking head interviews and slickly produced, precisely narrated animated scenes, the story of this second stolen election is revealed. The careful detail, the reliance of first-person accounts, the tone and mood of the country and the people at the time is explicitly recounted. Which makes the onslaught of the most horrid human rights violations that follow all the more shocking and devastating, whether it's directly from live footage or from recreated animations, and gives this documentary its urgency as a powerful testimony to a revolution solely documented by the victims of a vicious crackdown by the state militia, one fully sanctioned by Iran's governmental and religious leaders."

"What is disappointing is how little new information there is here for anyone who has followed news reports and, yes, various social networks in 2009," finds the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "The movie is more an illustration of what you already knew about the groundswell of support garnered by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the increasingly repressive dictatorship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Tweeting, Robert Koehler notes that the film never advances "the obvious follow-up questions: What did the Green 'Wave' actually accomplish, and what now for Iran?"

For Daniel Fienberg, writing at HitFix, the film "manages to be powerful and emphatic without necessarily ever feeling revelatory or issuing a clear call-to-action for viewers."

Following Friday's premiere, Ahadi "struck a surprisingly hopeful chord," reports Brooks Barnes for the NYT. "Not about human-rights violations in his homeland — the soft-spoken Mr Ahadi, who lives in Germany, thinks those will continue. But he was upbeat about whether Iran was listening to the outrage that followed its jailing last month of the celebrated director Jafar Panahi. 'I am certain Iran’s leaders are very aware of the price they are paying for this,' Mr Ahadi said. 'I’m hopeful that the protests — as long as they keep getting louder — will have an impact. Artists like Jafar are the mirror of society, and that mirror is right now broken into pieces.'"


Interviews with Ahadi: IndieWIRE and Filmmaker.

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