The Green Wave: Sundance Review

An arresting visual style cannot make up for lack of new information or viewpoints about the Green Revolution in 2009 Iran.

Doc provides little new information for anyone who followed the topic on news reports and various social networks in 2009.

PARK CITY -- (World Cinema) The Green Wave, a documentary about the “Green” explosion following the 2009 presidential election in Iran and the government’s violent response, is intriguing but for the wrong reasons.

The film’s Iranian writer-director Ali Samadi Ahadi lives in Germany and the Western media has been tossed out by Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime so the film is constructed not out of the news footage and on-the-spot reporting but rather through animation, video posts, Facebook and Twitter messages.

It’s a scrappy, highly adventurous approach that for the most part works well. What is disappointing is how little new information there is here for anyone who has followed news reports and, yes, various social networks in 2009. The movie is more an illustration of what you already knew about the groundswell of support garnered by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousaviand the increasingly repressive dictatorship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The film is certain to get considerable festival play, especially now that festival directors realize there is little risk in offending the Iranian government, which has severely cracked down on its own once thriving cinema. The Green Wave may then see minor exposure in European specialty venues but is most likely to play on European cable.

Indeed toward the end, the film directly addresses Western European countries that while protesting Iran’s nuclear program have turned a blind eye to its appalling abuse of its own citizens. A number of Iranian dissidents interviewed here accuse those nations of signing treaty after treaty with the blood-drenched regime to safeguard their own business interests.

Ahadi used a thousand entries in Iranian blogs two create two fictional students, whose hopes, fears and experiences with terror at the hands of government security thugs filter through the movie. Poor quality videos from YouTube and the like give the movie its crowd scenes and sequences of brutal violence.

Then interviews with the likes of Nobel laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Shiite cleric Dr. Mohsen and former UN war crimes prosecutor Dr. Payam Akhavan fill in the political details and lay out a range of charges against a regime that had to steal an election to retain power.

Both old and new media have already transformed much if not all of these details into the public domain. The creation of fictional characters through blogs brings you super-charged experiences but without any sense of a real person undergoing these ordeals. And the animation, while exceedingly well drawn, is cheaply put together giving the film a stilted feeling.

Increasingly, animation has proven an effective means of conveying war and social unrest especially where cameras cannot go in films such as Persepolis, also about Iran, and Waltz With Bashir, also about the Middle East. What is best about The Green Wave is how it offers yet another avenue for animators to take where even intrepid documentarians cannot tread.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Documentary Competition
A Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduktion in association with Wizard UG, WDR and WDR/Arte
Director/screenwriter: Ali Samadi Ahadi
Producers: Jan Krueger, Oliver Stoltz
Directors of photography: Peter Jeschke, Ali Samadi Ahadi
Art direction: Ali Soozandeh
Music: Ali N. Askin
Animation: Ali Reza Darwish, Ali Soozandeh
Editor: Barbara Toennieshen, Andreas Menn
Sales: Visit Films
No rating, 83 minutes