"I Am Neda" Follows Iranian Activist's Pursuit Of Freedom
For instance, one documentary in particular is stirring up controversy at Iranian film festivals. The film, "I am Neda," follows a day in the life of Neda Agha Soltan, an Iranian activist, on the day she tragically died while participating in an anti-government protest after the 2009 presidential election in Iran. The film chronicles Neda Soltan's movements from the early morning to the moments that led up to her brutal televised killing, which became a viral sensation only hours after her untimely death. Neda was an activist who fought for rights not currently enjoyed by millions of Iranian citizens.
In Amsterdam this past September, people gathered to discuss the current state of the Iranians' struggle for freedom. "No one is actually campaigning with dreams that matter. No candidate puts women’s right issues on the ballot; no one is arguing the rule of sharia law," wrote D. Gloriz, a writer for Iranian.com. He continued, "A vicious cycle of choices between bad and worse, continues the ongoing game." Activism in Iran in response to social and political woes has been called the "Green Movement" or "Green Wave," and centers on securing and improving rights to education and women's rights. Neda was an integral part of this movement. As a result, the Iranian government has banned the film and mention of Neda herself.
"I am Neda" honors the revolutionary spirit that Neda possessed, and for that, the film has been intensely criticized. Since Neda's death, Iranian citizens have been forced to follow new internet guidelines that restrict them from viewing the film, and Neda's family has been forced into silence. It is this control of information, at a time in which new and emerging forms of media are allowing freedom of speech to be enjoyed throughout the world, that Neda herself was questioning at the time of her death.
In America, on the other hand, Neda was celebrated for her courage and heroism. Time magazine announced that they had selected her to be 2009's Person of the Year, and during a CNN Press Conference on Iran and Neda’s death, President Barack Obama acknowledged the fearlessness and determination it took to do what Neda had done for her community.
The restriction of "I am Neda" in Iran reflects the government's desire to keep Neda's death and the issues surrounding it as quiet as possible. The government lacks a structure that embraces speech criticizing its current or future practices, policies or procedures. Therefore, a film that promotes a questioning of authority by highlighting Neda's death is unacceptable.
As humans, we have the ability to navigate online to search for and view information that may provide us with tools to criticize or question public officials throughout the world. In America, it is an individual's right to determine his or her own personal values when being exposed to different worldviews. Yet, in Iran, this right is restricted. At what point does this control of information, as a tactic to limit understanding of governmental policies and the ability of the people to enact change, become control of education and growth?
It is through actions like Neda's that the world can and will become a better place for all who inhabit it. It is through the thoughts and actions of protesters past and present that a multitude of changes have been enacted throughout history. Without the sacrifice and ambition of people like Neda, as a society we'll be forced to accept, without question, what dictators, presidents and majesties view as life's purpose and as people's rights.
It is unfortunate that Neda was killed in pursuit of the rights of the Iranian people, but those who are able to watch "I am Neda" can learn about her life and celebrate her goals. The video itself is an instrument of awareness about Neda's heroism and the pursuit of freedom she embodied.
Find more information about "I am Neda" and Neda herself here.
Find more information about Persepolis Pictures here.