Review: ‘The Queen and I’

Two formidable Iranian femmes meet and establish a wary rapport in the quietly moving docu "The Queen and I."

Two formidable Iranian femmes — one an exiled ex-communist (helmer-producer Nahid Persson Sarvestani herself), the other the titular former empress of Iran — meet and establish a wary rapport in the quietly moving docu “The Queen and I.” A simply told tale that touches on both women’s personal histories as well as that of their troubled homeland, pic ought to make a low-key royal tour of the fest circuit before retiring gracefully to upmarket TV exile.

Pic is structured chronologically around a series of one-on-ones between Swedish-based filmmaker Sarvestani (“Prostitution Behind the Veil”) and Farah Pahlavi, wife of the late, last shah of Iran. Pahlavi is initially guarded but eventually friendly toward her interviewer, who, back in the day, supported the revolution that deposed the shah, but then fled the country after the Ayatollah’s regime killed her brother. The women bond over loved ones lost and Sarvestani develops real respect for Pahlavi, to the point where she fears she won’t have the guts to question her about human-rights abuses under the shah’s reign. Judicious use of archive footage fills in background, and tech package is fine, apart from the somewhat soppy soundtrack.

The Queen and I



A RealReel production, in association with SVT, NHK, with the support of the Swedish Film Institute, the Media program, in association with YLE, NRK, SWR. (International sales: RealReel Doc, Stockholm.) Produced, directed by Nahid Persson Sarvestani. Written by Zinat S. Lloyd, Persson Sarvestani.


Camera (color, HD), Nicklas Narpaty; editor, Zinat S. Lloyd; music, Mirage, Deejaye. Reviewed on DVD, Hoveton, U.K., Dec. 17, 2008. (In Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam; Sundance Film Festival -- World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 89 MIN.


Farah Pahlavi, Nahid Persson Sarvestani. Farsi, English, French dialogue.

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