As Iranians were celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, a short film paying tribute to the women-led protest movement in Iran premiered in London this week, followed by a global launch on the social media channels of advocacy group Evoca Foundation.
The film “Rise” is the story of a teenage girl resisting the morality police after she is kidnapped from the streets of Tehran. The film was released more than six months after the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody following her arrest in the Iranian capital for allegedly wearing the mandatory headscarf improperly.
Amini’s death sparked an ongoing wave of protests against Iran’s clerical establishment -- one of the most serious challenges to the theocracy installed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution -- and a fierce crackdown on dissent.
The film’s executive producer, Naza Alakija, who is also the founder and CEO of the London-based Evoca Foundation, told IranWire about her hopes that the film will contribute to fundamental changes in Iran.
Founded in 2018, Evoca Foundation “works across climate action, education and supporting women and girls to deliver our vision of a world which is prosperous, sustainable and equitable for all,” its website says. Evoca Pictures “provides activists and advocates with strategic insight, expertise and expansive networks for creating world-class content that instills hope and drives visible impact.”
“Every year at the foundation, we do a campaign during Women’s History Month around social issues that women and girls face globally, such as child marriage,” Alakija wrote in an email to IranWire.
“This year, we wanted to amplify the voices of Iranians, especially women fighting for their right to self-determination and to commemorate the ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ movement. The bravery of the people has been extraordinary and an inspiration to people all over the world.”
“First and most importantly, I hope that my compatriots feel a sense of solidarity: no matter the distance, we support you in your fight for freedom,” Alakija continued.
“Your bravery has inspired people to rise up all over the world and I only hope that this film can continue to elevate and amplify your stories.”
“Rise” features British-Iranian actress Yasaman Mohsani in the role of the main character. The other actors and the film’s director remain anonymous.
Alakija told IranWire that the creative and production team spent about two days filming “Rise,” and it took around 3-4 months to create the entire film.
She says the reactions to it have been “emotional” so far.
“I think all Iranian women, at some point, have had some form of run in with the morality police, so the film has resonated quite deeply with many. It is a tough piece to watch but it depicts the reality of what is happening on the ground.”
Iranian security forces have cracked down hard on the protest movement, killing more than 520 demonstrators and detaining over 20,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The authorities will continue to “ruthlessly try and oppress protestors, but they cannot do this forever,” according to Alakija.
“The people of Iran want freedom from a corrupt government who has failed its citizen. There is only a minority that benefit from the status quo, and eventually they will go. This is the beginning of the end,” she added.
She said that the “bravery” the Iranian people have demonstrated “does not give me room not to be hopeful.”
“People are risking their lives, they are risking sexual and physical violence, torture. There is no choice. We must remain hopeful.”
“Rise” features the music of Kurdish Iranian singer and songwriter Hani Mojtahedy and Iranian rapper Gdaal – and a segment of American poet’s Maya Angelou’s work “Still I Rise:”
“Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise / I rise / I rise.”