IDFA, Berlin, Krakow, Guth Gafa, In-Edit Spain, Denver, Sound Unseen, Goteborg, !f Istanbul, One World, Cologne
A portrait of an Iranian musician forced into exile after a fatwa is called for his death.
Schauder’s film focuses on Shahin Najafi, who left Iran for Germany in 2005 after his controversial music enraged religious leaders. The resulting fatwa against his life resulted in notoriety which he has used to sustain his career, but, of course, with a hefty downside. As he releases new, sacrilegious music that continues to be critical of Iran’s leadership, he faces new death threats and band members second guess whether they should continue to play with him, potentially at the risk of their own lives, not to mention those of the audience. With Najafi’s music likely not well known, or even particularly appreciated, by many viewers, Schauder wisely focuses beyond it to attempt to capture the reality of living under a death sentence. Unfortunately, however, the filmmaker pushes the paranoia and tension a bit too much in his storytelling, and ultimately never digs deep enough under the surface of his subject to allow the audience to better understand what truly drives him.