In conversation, the two women discover that they have more in common than they think: as the children of oppressed opposition members abroad, they were turned into successful and responsible adults – quasi as proof of the correctness of their parents' ideals. We witness their struggle to put this into words. The truth is too painful.

Merciless proximity

Zaree does not spare herself in the film in general. The camera is there when her father, as a manifestation of repression, pulls out a towel from under the bed that he has been keeping in a drawer for over 30 years: it comes from Evin Prison. Its previous owners were two of his fellow inmates. Both were 29 years old when they were hanged. After that it became his property.

The scenes in which Zaree finally confronts her mother about the black hole in their family history, exposing herself to her greatest fears to the point of desperation, are excruciatingly long.

Yet "Born in Evin" is not a self-discovery trip that is all about one family. Initially, she didn't even want to appear in the film at all, says Zaree: "it was a fine line: I have an actressʹ skills, but here I was aiming to show something very realistic and authentic. Then I realised that if I wasn't part of the film, I would be denying myself. If I wanted to make a film about repression that seeks to break open the structures and dynamics of repression, then I can't continue and pretend it has nothing to do with me."

Mass graves of political prisoners massacred in the summer in Tehranʹs Kharavan Cemetery (photo: DW/S. Montazari)
"Born in Evin" demonstrates what happens when there is no institutional reappraisal of a national trauma. The regime in Iran is not interested in a re-examination of the massacre. To this day, no one knows how many people were executed in the 1980s

The film shows what happens when there is no institutional reappraisal of a national trauma. The regime in Iran is not interested in a re-examination of the massacre. To this day, no one knows how many people were executed in the 1980s. Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate who was part of the commission that monitored the executions in 1988, stood in the 2017 presidential election.

"Born in Evin" raises the question of what narratives can the generation of children in exile create, how they can position themselves and pass on their history – and in doing so creates an analogy with the fates of today's refugees.

The work goes on

For Zaree, it is already the third part of her artistic examination of this topic: she has already written an award-winning play on the subject of speechlessness and repression and participated in an autobiographical project sponsored by Berlin's Gorki Theater.

She invested around four years in her debut film. But not full time. At this year's Berlinale, where "Born in Evin" premiered in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section, she was involved in three productions.

Now she is looking for a little breathing space. Nevertheless, she already has an invitation for the International Playwrights' Programme run by the Royal Court Theatre in London for the summer and a few acting engagements. Just as one would expect from successful and responsible adults. Catching herself mid-sentence, she is forced to laugh.

Laura Doing

© Deutsche Welle 2019

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