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Vol. 8, No. 4, 2009
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Necessities of Life

Arash T. Riahi's

Arash T. Riahi


reviewed by


Sylvain RichardSylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave For a Moment of Freedom, which played at the 2008 Montreal International World Film Festival, 3.8 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.

When 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.

from For a Moment of FreedomWhat 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.

It 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.

In 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. from For A Moment of FreedomCase 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.

There’s 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 untenable predicament.

from For a Moment of FreedomWhile 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.

The 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.

For 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.

For the ratings of 2008 Montreal International World Film Festival, HERE.
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