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Desert Dancer - Film Review


A Review by Eliya Reis.


Reece Ritchie and Frieda Pinto star in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

You can't help but appreciate the film "Desert Dancer's" attempts to bring the Western audience into the unsexy subject of life in post revolution Iran. The film follows the extreme experience of a young dancer, Aphshin, as he starts a dancing group with his university friends under the oppressive Iranian regime. Under the mullahs, dancing was (and still is) forbidden and subject to extreme enforcement. 


Tom Cullen and Reece Ritchie star in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

While the filmmakers do a fine job of simplifying the complex circumstances, you cannot avoid the under taste of a high school theater group putting together a holocaust play. The choice to have the actors speak English instead of Persian works against the film's true-story nature.  As the story leans heavily on the restrictions that the Iranian regime forces on the young people, speaking English undermines the oppression and deflates the sense of difficulty.  If it is that easy for the characters to speak English, it shouldn't be too hard for them to go on the Internet and get in line with their counterparts around the world.

Frieda Pinto stars in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

The ending note of the film also suffers significantly from the decision to use English. You don't know how isolated Aphshin feels until the very end of the movie. If we had joined Aphshin in his struggle to speak English, his escape would have appeared stronger.

Reece Ritchie stars in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

The filmmaker's urge to mitigate the challenges these young people experience throughout the film deflates the historic and cultural roots of the present situation, and brings it down to a somewhat childish perspective. People who have grown up under these conditions oftentimes develop a cynical outlook at their absurd state of being. In this film there is no sense of subtext or irony. 


Makram Khoury stars in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

The characters spell out their blunt intentions without a slight sense of perspective or cultural context. The screenplay could have shed more light on the historical evolvement which led to the tumultuous days depicted in the story, and the awareness of the people to the absurdity of the imposed restrictions. It was a rare time of significant uprising when a strong candidate had risen against the regime during the dramatic 2009 elections.


Reece Ritchie and Frieda Pinto star in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

High commendations are in order for the effective use of suspense and cinematic language in one of the more beautiful acts of deceit in the desert dance scene. The movement of the camera allow us to get free with the dance. We feel the strength of this moment along with the young adults who had never before been allowed to have this simple experience of watching a dance performance. The filmmakers keep us on the edge of our seats and play nicely with our dire expectations.

Tom Cullen stars in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

The most truthful moments of the film are the moments when the camera shows instead of letting the characters speak. The dancing is as explicit and expressionistic as you would hope to find in a movie about a dancer. The scene where Aphshin helps his love interest cold turkey her heroin addiction was beautifully done. These visceral experiences help overcome the shortcomings of this piece.


Frieda Pinto, Bamshad Abedi-Amin Tom Cullen Reese Ritchie, Marama Corlett and star in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

The overall experience though, unfortunately, stayed on the amateurish side. The story is too important to have that in its faults.  The oppression of the Iranian people continues and has even become worse. The intense embargo the world has put on the Iranian regime's nuclear ambitions in the last few years has taken a heavy toll on the civilians and suppressed their revolutionary efforts.

The world around Desert Dancer deserves a stronger and more sorted out depiction in order to bring broader public attention to its subject. 

Frieda Pinto and Reece Ritchie star in Relativity Media's DESERT DANCER...COPYRIGHT DESERT DANCER PRODUCTIONS LTD 2014

Desert Dancer opens in select theaters April 17, 2015.




Posted By Eliya Reis on April 08, 2015 10:55 am | Permalink