Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He
gave For a Moment of Freedom, which played at the
Montreal International World Film Festival,
3.8 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click
a person decides to leave or flee his native country in search
of the better life in a new land, the conflict -- the mental
anguish that precedes the decision -- often gets little say
when turned into the subject of a film. As a rule, with exceptions,
the novel offers a more complete account of those fateful
decisions and their consequences.
falls under the umbrella of leaving is no less than everything
that one has come to know over the course of a lifetime: family,
friends, culture, landmarks, a former politic turned bad,
and the sum of all those daily experiences, large and small,
that combine to make up the personality that one is. Leaving
also means risking the accusation of abandoning one’s
culture, the struggle, the cause. In the case of refugees,
leaving usually entails a risk fraught journey, or the possibility
of being poorly received in the host country, or being scapegoated
for already existing problems.
is these mostly unspoken concerns and inner conflicts that
inform the main characters in Arash T. Riahi’s award
winning film, For a Moment of Freedom, which continues
Iran’s tradition in producing some of the very best
in world cinema.
three separate stories, the film follows the plight of Iranian
and Iraqi refugees who get held up the bureaucratic doldrums
in Ankara, Turkey. Two kids, with the help of family, are
trying to reconnect with their parents in Austria, another
is trying make an asylum case. Case
details are painstakingly introduced, recorded, filed, scheduled,
delayed, rescheduled: the effects are cumulative as the viewer
is made to experience the exasperation and uncertainty that
would otherwise overwhelm the individual if it weren’t
for an unsuspected ability to grow humour in the heart of
despair, to create those precious moments of respite and crazy
optimism that like light, get in through the cracks of cases
that are looking bleaker with every passing bloated bureaucratic
decision. Arashi, whose maturity as a director defies his
relative inexperience, makes the characters and their personal
fate his obsession, and not his personal take on politics.
By inference only, we learn as much about Turkey as we do
about the countries from where the refugees are fleeing.
a moment in the film when one of the children ask, “Why
do people need papers to be with their parents?” The
question makes us smile even as we respond to its tragic implications.
Arashi reminds us that not only does every culture have its
humour, but every culture, to a certain extent, is informed
by its humour. We discover that humour, no matter how off
the wall, is perhaps the only response equal to near-impossible
situations, and that laughter's timely interventions, if only
temporarily, are uniquely able reverse the paradigm of an
at times outrageously funny, Arashi Riahi’s skilfully
penned script refuses to trivialize his characters and their
deteriorating circumstance, and for this reason alone, For
a Moment of Freedom merits comparison with Roberto Benigni’s
unrivalled Life is Beautiful.
effects of the film are guaranteed by very considerate and
sometimes arresting cinematography, especially at the beginning
of the film when the refugees are crossing the gorgeous mountainous
region that divides Iran and Turkey. The score is loud and
true to life and may not be to everyone’s taste but
its authenticity cannot be questioned and may even grow on
one as the film progresses.
all those precious moments of insight that have no expiry
date, For a Moment of Freedom is a film not to be
missed. In its genre, it ranks among the very best.