Jakob Gross, Mehran Tamadon
France, Switzerland | OmeU

It took Mehran Tamadon two years to con­vince four Shia cler­ics to take part in an unusu­al dia­logue. The film­mak­er, who lives in Paris, used his family’s idyl­lic coun­try house as a place to sim­u­late a plural soci­ety for one week­end. He begins by pre­sent­ing his ideal for a sec­u­lar Iran to the Mul­lahs. His guests do not lose their coun­te­nance, but instead answer his ques­tions about the role of women in Iran, abor­tion, and free­dom of speech in a calm and rhetor­i­cal­ly pre­cise way.

What ensues is a con­stant nego­ti­a­tion about what rules apply, what they are talk­ing about, and what can be said. The Mul­lahs con­front the host, who is crit­i­cal of the regime, with his own story of immi­gra­tion. They crit­i­cize “Mr. Sec­u­lar” for his west­ern­ized iden­ti­ty, and they skill­ful­ly maneu­ver the con­ver­sa­tion toward topics they prefer: How much ide­ol­o­gy is accept­able in a plural soci­ety? How free can the press be? And how much singing by a woman can be tol­er­at­ed in an Iran­ian hit song?

In his exper­i­ment, Tamadon is able to defuse ten­sions within the group repeat­ed­ly, cre­at­ing comic sit­u­a­tions unwit­ting­ly. While the women retreat within the house, the men have con­tro­ver­sial dis­cus­sions. The mood could change abrupt­ly at any moment; the sur­re­al cham­ber drama could become a polit­i­cal scan­dal. Although sat­is­fied that the meet­ing took place, the film­mak­er ulti­mate­ly feels the con­se­quences of his daring experiment.