Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Tree That Remembers

This weekend I went to “Iran – 21st Anniversary Seminar” in London, a seminar commemorating the thousands of political prisoners executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the summer of 1988 and the 72 or more young people killed during the uprising following the June 12 election.

During the seminar, Masoud Raouf, an Iran-born painter and film director/producer who has lived in Canada since 1988, presented “The Tree That Remembers.” In this poignant documentary, he tries to understand what led to the suicide of an Iranian student who was living in Canada as a refugee. The film won the Silver Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, the Golden Sheaf Ward for Best Social Documentary at Yorkton and the Bronze Plaque at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival.

In 1992, a young Iranian student hanged himself from a tree on the outskirts of a small Ontario town. He had escaped the Ayatollahs' regime, but he could not escape his past. News of the young stranger's death hit home with filmmaker Masoud Raouf. He too is part of the generation of Iranians who rose up against the Shah's despotic rule during the 1979 revolution, but their hope quickly turned into despair as the equally murderous new regime persecuted them too. Thousands of political prisoners were executed by the Islamic regime in the 1980s in order to eliminate any opposition to the regime. This culminated in the mass massacre of more than 3,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

In the Tree that Remembers, Raouf assembles a group of Iranians - all former political prisoners like himself who were active in the democratic movement. The ex-political prisoners who have been tortured in prison, explain they have to build walls around themselves in order to survive. Their eyes have been opened to the capability of all mankind to inflict the most terrible evil. And this remains imprinted in them for ever. The only way to go on living with this unbearable burden is by sharing their stories, and that’s what they are doing. And that's what a growing number of filmmakers, artists, writers and ordinary people are doing.

The 21st Anniversary Seminar was organized by the Association of Iranian Political Prisoners (in exile) and and Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund

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