Manuscripts Don't Burn
PROD/SCR Mohammad Rasoulof
The means by which an authoritarian regime succeeds in silencing independent voices is the subject of this clandestinely made drama from Iranian director-writer Mohammad Rasoulof, who still has an unserved prison sentence hanging over his head. His brave picture not only makes the viewer complicit in the action, but is also one of the first to confront so directly the brutality of the Islamic Republic’s feared security apparatus. While some will see a secondary subtext in the persons and events depicted, the central situation, based on real incidents, could be set in any country where people are unable to speak with unfettered voices.
The film opens like a thriller, with working-class man Khosrow running from a pursuer and jumping, in the nick of time, into a car driven by his colleague Morteza. It’s only after we follow Khosrow home and feel sympathy for his sick child and financial problems that we discover that he and Morteza are the torture and assassination arms of the state. Along with their silken-voiced boss, the two men are searching for copies of a banned manuscript that describes a 1995 incident in which 21 poets on a bus bound for a conference in Armenia were slated for elimination…
"In Rasoulof’s careful hands, torture and kidnapping and even murder are presented in chillingly matter-of-fact terms, never sensationalizing the banality of evil… Rasoulof has kicked a hornet’s nest with this film."—Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter.
(In order to maintain the safety of his crew and cast, names other than Rasoulof’s are redacted from the film’s credits.)