Thursday , June 13 2024

Anthem Film Review: Three Films Out of Iran

Three films chosen for this year’s Anthem Libertarian Film Festival were created in Iran. Film festival director Jo Ann Skousen shared with attendees how glad she was to have these submissions, given the nature of the government in Tehran and the risks filmmakers took making the films.

Unknown or unfortunate circumstances kept these talented filmmakers from attending the festival. Ayat Asadi Rahbar, director of Raheel, is no longer in Iran and cannot return. The whereabouts of the director of Tangle, Malihe Ghloamzadeh, are unknown. The creator of The Stain, Shoresh Vakili, was not able to get a visa because of current tensions between the U.S. and Iran.


Asadi Rahbar’s Raheel won the Anthem award for Best Foreign Short Narrative. The film takes us on a cab ride. What could be simpler than that? Raheel, an Afghan woman who has illegally entered Iran in order to find her husband needs a ride. A cab driver at the end of his day, who has his own problems and wants to get home to his family, picks her up.

A cab ride that changed lives in Raheel

Their lives immediately begin to intertwine. At first the cab driver does not even want to take her all the way to her destination. But as things go wrong, he begins to help. Both of their lives change forever during that ride.

In watching the film, I saw it as one woman’s journey. I didn’t see it as political. Apparently, because it does not show an ideal Iran, the Iranian government disagreed. The trailer for Raheel is linked at the end of this article.


Tangle, by Malihe Ghloamzadeh, is a deep, amazing animation. It won Anthem’s Narrative Grand Prize, being praised by Skousen as “Simply exquisite.”

‘Tangle’ explores our connections with our world

The filmmaker uses animation to tell a story, and to connect with people in a way which probably could not be done through any other medium. The main character is a woman, drawn in a way that gives her a universality, rather than any particular nationality or ethnicity.

The woman is alone in her house in wartime and she decides to flee. As she touches various items, a “string” which may be a visual representation of a memory or emotional connection, becomes attached to her. As she leaves, more and more strings link to her body – entangling her.

The end of Tangle leaves us guessing, hoping, rooting for the woman. You can watch the trailer here.

The Stain

The Stain, by filmmaker Shoresh Vakili, won the Libertarian Ideals award. It takes the viewer into the consciousness of an old soldier. The old soldier, who now works as the maintenance man in a movie theater, keeps encountering a bloodlike stain on a movie screen every time a war film plays.

Eventually it begins to drip, leaving red puddles on the floor. It is not an easy stain to remove.

‘The Stain’ takes viewers into the memories of an old soldier

I have always enjoyed films which tell stories visually. In The Stain dialog does not exist, but none the less, we are taken deeply in the doubts and perhaps guilt of the old soldier. Filmmaker Vakili does an amazing job of visual storytelling.


The Anthem Film Festival, part of FreedomFest, has become my favorite venue for finding challenging, fun, and important films. It ran this year from July 17-20 at the Paris Resort Las Vegas. You can find out more about Anthem, including info on all their films, at its website and Facebook page.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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