Desert Dancer is based on the life of Adshin Ghaffarian,an Iranian dancer and choreographer who currently lives in exile in France having fled from his home country due to persecution. (Though having read this interview, I realise that many liberties have been taken in fictionalising his story).
In Iran, dancing, though not strictly illegal, is forbidden. As a boy, Ghaffarian had always wanted to dance and when he became a theatre student he was able to secretly access online videos from which he learned dance styles and techniques which otherwise would have remained a mystery to him. He gathers a group of friends round him and together they create an underground dance company, meeting in secret and in constant fear of being discovered by the culture police.
The choreography in this film is superb (though it is choreographed not by Ghaffarian himself but by Akram Khan). The scene where the company dance in the desert to a small and select audience is stunning, the dancing is passionate and powerful and works beautifully in the stark sandy landscape.
This is a moving, engaging film about the power of art to enable people to express themselves and to resist oppression. Art, in this case dance, may not directly change political situations but it communicates, changes people, increasing their confidence in their own voice and helping them make connections with other people and to effect wider change.
Desert Dancer received it's UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It deserves to get wide release into cinemas everywhere. Even if you think you don't like modern dance, you should look out for it!
You can read my other reviews from the film festival by following the links below:
Under Milk Wood - a new cinematic interpretation of Dylan Thomas' classic prose poem
Brand New U - futuristic thriller / love story
Of Chickens and Camels
- a review of Chicken (a wonderful coming of age film about a teenager
with learning difficultie) and Nearby Sky (a documentary about the camel
beauty contests in the Emirates).
Infini - disaster on an off-planet mine
La Tirisia - love and life in the cacti covered mountains of Mexico
When Elephants Fight - conflict minerals in Congo
Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail
Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe
30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)
Disclaimer - I have a press pass for the film festival and attended a free press screening of this film.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.