The Queen and I
Nonfiction filmmaking holds a strong appeal for many committed directors and producers. This ongoing series lets you sample wide-ranging approaches to the contemporary documentary.
With recent events surrounding the June elections in Iran, The Queen and I couldn't be more relevant.
When Nahid Persson Sarvestani, an Iranian exile, set out to make a documentary about Farah Pahlavi, the widow of the shah of Iran, she expected to encounter her opposite. As a child, Persson Sarvestani had lived in dire poverty, watching Farah's wedding as if it were a fairy-tale. As a teenager, she joined the Communist faction of Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution, which deposed the shah, sending him and his family volleying from country to country. Soon after, Persson Sarvestani also left Iran, seeking asylum in Sweden and settling there. She's continued to address conditions in Iran through her work as a filmmaker, however, producing works such as Prostitution Behind the Veil, which was nominated for an international Emmy.
Almost thirty years after the Iranian revolution, Persson Sarvestani took her unanswered questions about shah's queen and regime directly to Queen Farah. Surprisingly, the queen welcomed her as a fellow refugee from their beloved homeland, granting unprecedented access. Over the next year and a half, Persson Sarvestani entered the queen's world. She initially thought she would be able to challenge the shah's ideology; instead, she found she must rethink her own. When Persson Sarvestani's prior opposition to the shah surfaced, the queen shut down filming.
Yet, in the struggle to understand each other's experiences, an unlikely friendship blossomed and endured. Confronting Farah about the shah's repression has become not only a political conflict but a personal one, and Persson Sarvestani's objectivity is shaken. In this gripping, poignant consideration of subjectivity as truth, we learn that people write history. And can also heal it. (90 mins, video)
This film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009.
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