An anguished cry of despair and fury, “The Green Wave” uses a mixture of animation and archival/original footage to explore the recent uprising in Iran after the 2009 election. In addition to pro-made material, Iranian-German writer-helmer Ali Samadi Ahadi (“Lost Children”) also draws on blogs, Twitter messages and home footage made by Iranian citizens during the violently quelled Green Revolution to tell its story. Mixed-media approach is eye-catching, and the subject is unquestionably powerful, but the sentimental score and stridently drawn imagery detract from pic’s impact. “Wave” is sure to break on further fest and ancillary shores.
Pic will inevitably be compared with Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir,” another Middle East-set pic that combines animation and docu elements. “Persepolis,” Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi’s all-animated account of an Iranian woman’s coming of age, reps another obvious touchstone. But “The Green Wave,” for all its virtues, isn’t as troubling or as innovative as “Bashir”; nor is it elevated by one strong, individual voice, like “Persepolis.” That said, writer-helmer Ali Samadi Ahadi’s more conventional docu does what it sets out to do very well: tell its story in an accessible way, while raising ire at the “unparalleled oppression” that took place in Iran last year.
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The most impactful elements here are the excerpts from blogs (spoken in voiceover by thesps Pegah Ferydoni and Navid Akhavan), illustrated with simple animated images whose strong outlines and watercolor fills (drawn by Ali Reza Darvish) recall upmarket graphic novels. Stories unspooled include that of a young man who attends the protests and ends up getting arrested and tortured, and a young woman who works for opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Strangely, neither person is identified by name, suggesting their tales might be amalgamations of different accounts, although the male protagonist bears a striking resemblance to Mehdi Mohseni, a blogger/journalist interviewed in pic’s live-action footage.
Other interviewees include journalist and Green Revolution eyewitness Mitra Khalatbari; Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi; professor of international law Payam Akhavan; and Shiite cleric Mohsen Kadivar — all of them articulate, persuasive and unabashedly opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Throughout, pic intersperses footage culled from news reports and the camera phones and DV recorders wielded by protestors — showing, among other things, a young man dying from a head wound and well-known martyr Neda Agha-Soltan moments after she was shot. The Twitter feeds of protestors and Mousavi himself from the time of the conflict appear onscreen as subtitles.
Only the most fanatical Ahmadinejad supporter would dare gainsay pic’s account of events, and the outrage expressed here is undeniably justified, but “The Green Wave” might have been more effective with a slightly less emotive approach. Characters in the animated material, for instance, are often posed in such heroic stances they recall propaganda posters from the Soviet era. Meanwhile, the cello-laden score by Ali N. Askin attempts to milk the tear ducts with such ferocity, some auds may feel bullied by the string section.
Crisp editing by Barbara Toennieshen and Andreas Menn propels the narrative forward, making for a brisk, TV-friendly 80-minute running time. Ace sound mix helps bring the stylized animated sections to life.