True Vision Award winner Mehrdad Oskouei, of Iran, delivered two powerful companion pieces to this year’s fest.
It was a true pleasure and benefit to watch them back to back, almost by the coincident of my schedule, not by intention.
In ‘The Last Days of Winter’ we enter the correctional facility for boys below 15 years of age, who are all in ‘jail’ because of theft, assault, drugs, etc. In ‘Starless Dreams’ we enter a correctional facility for girls, all under 18, who were arrested and sent to this center for a wide range of crimes, from simply running away from home and theft, to manslaughter.
We go with the director as he asks probing questions into the lives of both the girls and boys in the films. He does an amazing job of gaining rapport with both groups. Apparently, he had to apply for a permit to enter the facilities and only had about a week to film each one. ‘Last Days’ was released in 2011 and ‘Starless Dreams’ is new in 2015.
Because of the intimate and weighty insight that the director gained from the children to relay to us, T/F thought he deserved the True Vision Award, by which he showed great skill and passion in telling the stories of these children.
Conversation after conversation the children expressed loss, fears, abandonment, and perhaps little future. They discussed love, parents, relationships, future children, their crimes, and their inner most fears. I was truly moved, similar to the close-quarters of ‘These Birds Walk’, the expose filmed in a Pakistani orphanage and shown at T/F a few years ago.
How much I desired while watching to hug them, put my arm around their shoulder and speak the gospel of a hope and a future found in Christ and no other. They live in a strict Iranian culture, perhaps less about the Qu’ran and more a society designed to enslave. Yet, truly only a hope in a truly loving Father can bring the freedom and future the children all seek, whether they can express it or not. And that expression is something that Oskouei, the director, does so well helping the children actually verbalize their innermost heart of hearts.
As the credits rolled for ‘Starless Dreams’ I was left in tears, with only a sole prayer in my mind as I prayed for the children who are forgotten, abused, and forced to do things with which the children were too well made familiar. May we see the gospel of hope go forth into the streets of Tehran where these children live! May they have a future and a hope!
Both of these films are well-produced and deserve a viewing, especially if you are interested in Middle Eastern culture. But, more broadly, it is easy to contextualize the children we meet on screen to the children in our own lives. May we be committed to caring and protecting children from the abuse and neglect that all of these children know in the films!