SOS Tehran Review
Abadi's family fled to France when she was just a teenager but she now returns to rediscover Tehran armed with a camera hoping to explore how its' inhabitants are coping under the slightly more liberal regime. The film takes a wide look at the state of the society and gives a voice to many women who would usually never be able to have their story told outside or inside of Iran. Confronted with the double blow of family rejection and poverty, many have no other source of income than the help sporadically given out by some of the governmental associations set up during the Khomeini era.
We then get a fascinating insight into the middle class' problems with the Dr. Majd. He seems to be Iran's answer to Raj Persaud and runs group therapy sessions with couples or individuals in which they feel free to express how they feel about their situation in the society. Once again it's the women that seem the most eager to talk in front of the camera about their current lot in life and how they wish things would change. Flitting between different and very strange settings, such as a matrimonial agency run by an ex-general who runs the place like a martial court, Abadi gives us a vision of Iran that is often alluded to in many works of fiction but is never confronted in such a direct manner.
SOS Tehran will undoubtably remind some of Divorce Iranian Style, the startling documentary by Longinotto and Mir-Hosseini (aired on C4 some time back) - whereas the latter looked solely at divorce, the former has a different, less clearly defined focus on the general concept of mental health and psychological suffering in Iran. It remains a truly compelling documentary which unsurpisingly won the highest prize for documentaries at last year's Independent Film Festival in Brussels.
The DVD:The image and subtitles:The quality of the image is pretty good considering the source was DV-cam - of course the limitations of the digital medium (digitalisation, lower definition) are visible but the transfer itself is problem-free and has been given an anamorphic enhancement.
The subtitles are available in French or English and are non-compulsory . The English subtitles are quite close to the French translation and show little sign of grammatical mistakes.
:Unusually for a documentary we get a 5.1 mix though this is solely used to full effect when the excellent soundtrack kicks in. All the dialogue seems to have been mixed into the center and remains clearly audible throughout the film. Though some may find the 5.1 mix to be slightly distracting, it's nice to see small-scale releases like this getting one...
The menus:Simple but musical - they are only available in French but they are pretty intuitive to navigate and understand.
:None of the extras are subtitles in English or French so a good knowledge of spoken French is necessary
Although the extras are rather few, they are all rather good. The director's commentary is an excellent addition to the documentary itself - Abadi tells us a great deal more about the situation, the difficulties of filming in Iran, how her version of filming events "passively" (i.e. not interviewing the subjects) was seen by those she was filming etc. Strangely it only lasts for a bit more than 50 minutes to then reappear for a few seconds over the credits but despite that eccentricity it's a brilliant commentary.
Added to this there's a short documentary about Iran's historical background which is quite useful for those who don't necessarily know that much about Iran - despite the rapidity of the presentation it is suprisingly thorough and a good extra to get you up to date before viewing the film... Finally, we get the compulsory filmography of Sou Abadi.
:I very much doubt this excellent documentary would ever get a release in the UK in the near future so Doriane Films have once again had the good idea of supplying English subtitles on this DVD. Though the extras require good French, the film itself is worth the expense.
Many thanks to Olivier Klein for corrections and feedback on this piece.