How do I go about reviewing this film without sounding like a heartless boar? I often watch pictures regarding our planet’s atrocities that make the United States look like a paradise, even in its worst of times. Upon completing those films, I feel like I’ll be shamed for not liking something out of the perception that I’m a privileged, selfish American. My problem isn’t the message of “Nasrin,” but it’s in its execution. The filmmaking has the style of someone who either just discovered how to create a movie or someone who’s out of touch with an ever-evolving world of narrative storytelling.
From my vague understanding, much of this movie was secretly filmed. Aside from the opening title, providing me that information, this element could have been highlighted more prominently amongst the narrative. The entirety of the picture has a gorilla filmmaking style that I mostly would never say should draw attention to itself, but in this case, it should. 90% of the dialogue is subtitled. Not only because it’s spoken in Iranian but because the audio isn’t clean at all. I began to wonder why the sound was so dirty. Instead of caring about what was being said, I was too distracted by the production’s terrible audio. Couldn’t the cameramen have snuck in with a LAV and a small sound recorder? To make matters worse, most of the camerawork looks like it was shot by an eight-year holding an iPhone.
I rarely complain about technical issues like this when I’m aware that the filmmakers risked their lives filming the documentary. That danger is hardly suggested though, rendering an emotionless subpar looking product. The editing doesn’t help either. The saving grace to these technical issues could have been some masterful manipulation on the cutting room floor, which “Nassrin” is sorely lacking. At the beginning of the film, there’s a harrowing moment where a mother is hysterically weeping over her son’s death. This moment was shot vertically on a smartphone, so I understand the director wants to fill up the rest of the screen. He does so with a hideous grey border that my cousin could have implemented using iMovie ripping me straight out of the moment.
The rest of the picture is plagued with hastily cut acts failing to allow the audience to absorb the enormity of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s monumental achievements. The sacrifices she makes going to prison because she refuses to conform to Iran’s oppressive laws, specifically towards women, are incredible. How that affects her family is missing. We listen to her husband Reza Khandan speak of how it pains him, but we don’t see it. How do the children feel? What’s the household like without the mother to keep everyone’s spirits up? Director Jeff Kaufman is more occupied with telling the audience what to think instead of letting the emotions sync in. Kaufman is shouting, “THIS IS IMPORTANT,” but I don’t care since I’m watching yet another flat autobiography that preaches its message instead of heartily communicating it. There are so many opportunities that seem missed, which is a shame considering Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life has a rich ongoing story to tell.