The Iranian opposition director, Sepideh Farsi, recalls that the resistance to the regime in Iran has “continued for 40 years.” In her film “The Siren,” which participated in the Annecy International Animation Festival, she saluted the ability of her citizens to continue by addressing another “important chapter” in the history of her country, which is The Iran-Iraq war.
The film, which is competing for the prize of the Annecy Festival, and it is the first work in the animation category of the director, deals with a story in which reality mixes with the fictional side of a fourteen-year-old boy named Omid, who stayed with his grandfather in Abadan, the capital of the Iranian oil industry, during the Iraqi army’s siege of it in 1980.
The boy used one of the “lings”, which are traditional boats made in the south of the country, to evacuate the residents of his city who were simultaneously resisting the invasion and the new regimes imposed by the mullahs after they assumed power following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Iran-Iraq conflict (1980-1988)
The director, who was born in Tehran in 1965 and was Omid’s age when the Iran-Iraq conflict broke out (1980-1988), recalled that this war, which is “the largest after the Vietnam War in the second half of the twentieth century,” was “an important chapter in the history of Iran” as well as in her life.
During an interview in May with Agence France-Presse at her Parisian residence, she describes it as “a real turning point in the lives of all Iranians.”
Sepideh Farsi, who lived with her father in this cosmopolitan city when she was “very young,” adds, “The siege of Abadan affected me for a long time.”
And she considered that “civilian people’s decision to stay to resist the enemy, without having any practical capabilities” for eight months, is “extraordinary.” And she likened it “to some extent to what we live with the Ukrainians in a different way.”
However, it notes that “the regime has always monopolized the narrative of this war,” during which it used “the foreign enemy to purify society of all dissent and opposition.”
She believes that there is a need to give “the people’s story”, specifically from the perspective of “a skinny boy (whose character is embodied by a woman, Mina Cavani) who is not a superhero” and an artist whose character was inspired by a group of Iranian singers who were denied the right to sing in public places.
Dancing against bullets
The director of the documentary “Tehran Without Rent” and the movie “The Red Rose” decided to adopt the animation formula to implement her project, which she had set her eyes on eight years ago, and achieved it with the help of painter Zaven Najjar and screenwriter Jawad Jawahery.
What encouraged her to adopt this genre is the difficulty of recreating the scenery of a city that was completely destroyed during the war, especially since she has not been able to walk there since 2009, given that she was prevented from doing so due to her relationship with the regime.
Before moving to France to study mathematics in 1984, Sepideh Farsi was arrested at the age of 16 for hiding a 19-year-old dissident who was found in her home and then executed.
In an article published last January in the newspaper “Le Monde”, she called on the West to stop dealing with the leaders of the Iranian regime that “kills its children” and “rapes its youth” in order to “quell the revolution”, since the death of Mahsa Amini in September after three years. Days after she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for violating the strict dress code imposed on women.
In “The Siren”, a young woman removes her headscarf to treat an injured person, prompting Omid’s fears. It is a scene that took shape long before the events he was reminded of.
Sepideh Farsi notes, “Poetry can become a weapon that causes panic, and this is what is happening today in Iran. Women are resisting by removing the veil … and by dancing in the face of live ammunition.”
And she considers the film’s inclusion of this scene as a “touching coincidence” indicating that “there is continuity in this resistance,” which has been manifested in successive waves since 1979 in the face of what has been slapped by the “brutal regime.”
The director believes that the fall of this regime “takes time”, but the repression it is practicing at the present time shows that it is “desperate”.