Great films entertain us and transport us to another world. Whether they are summer blockbusters or low-key indie films, there is power in good story telling.
But every once in a while we see something that not only transports us, but awakens us. It inspires us. It gives direction to the voice that has been whispering to us from somewhere deep in our hearts.
Every once in a while we watch something like NASRIN.
I was unfamiliar with the life and work of Nasrin Sotoudeh and after viewing this documentary from Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, I am regretful of my ignorance up to this point. A brilliant lawyer and globally-known champion of human rights, Nasrin has spent the majority of her life fighting the corruption and compulsory requirements of the Iranian government. Filmed in secret over the span of two years, NASRIN pieces together the every day with the extraordinary. A devoted wife to her husband and fellow activist Reza Khandan, an involved mother to her children, and an inspiration to the young women of Iran such as Nargese Hosseini, Nasrin is committed to creating a world where women, children, death row inmates, LGBTQIA persons, and religious minorities (amongst others living in the margins of society).
By blending Nasrin’s gentle and humble demeanor with her determination and conviction that everyone deserves a voice in the face of oppression, this film reflects not only the life’s work of a woman willing to face imprisonment and political corruption, but paints a portrait of an Iran that is vastly different than it’s government’s representation. Warm, vibrant, and hospitable, the Iranian people are shown longing for an Iran that stands for equality and fairness – not one of censorship and relentless control. Women and men alike demonstrate against the compulsory hijab laws, the execution of innocent prisoners, the rejection of women in roles of leadership, and political corruption. There is a depth of communal support that is both surprising and encouraging for those of us who have viewed the Iranian people through a blurred and broken lens.
And it wasn’t an easy watch.
Opening one’s eyes to the travesty and injustice surrounding us all over the world is rarely without discomfort. Sure, I’m not naive enough to deny systemic suffering, but it has been hard to lift my head up from my own bubble and see just how much is going on around me. Nasrin focuses on the human rights fight as it lives in Iran, but it’s happening right outside my front door. My friends of color live every day in the midst of this fight. Women continue to strive for equal pay and opportunity. Members of the LGBTQIA community are still forced to live in the margins of the dignity every person deserves. THESE are human rights issues – not inconveniences like mask-wearing and limited gatherings. In our personal quests for autonomy, we have forgotten the shared humanity with our neighbors who don’t have the privilege of a fair voice, both near and far.
There is a line from this film that is now engraved upon my heart: “Our children should not inherit silence from us.” Our voice is one of the most powerful tools for change we possess. Should we stifle it, we cheapen the witness of others who tirelessly use theirs for the benefit of others. Yes, each one of us has a unique voice, and we don’t all need to be on the same platforms. But we should be compelled to find the courage to start speaking, even if in whispers at first. And if NASRIN doesn’t compel every viewer to use their voice, then I don’t know what will.
For more information including how to view the film, host a screening, or sign the petition, please visit www.nasrinfilm.com. Stay tuned for the behind-the-scenes interview with Director Jeff Kaufman and Producer Marcia Ross.