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220. Iranian Director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) (2017), Based on His Original Story/script: A Very Critical and Philosophical Look at Corruption and Religious Intolerance in Iran Today

By Jugu Abraham

220.  Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) (2017), based on his original story/script:  A very critical and philosophical look at corruption and religious intolerance in Iran today
"Early on, this film introduces us to many different facets of its main character's life that barely seem to relate. Gradually and powerfully, the script teases out the connections, all of which culminate in a haunting finale. This structure requires patience and discipline from its writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof. In a festival full of modern spins on film noir, he gives us one of the best, set in an unlikely place."
---Citation for the film’s Silver Hugo award for its screenplay at the Chicago Film Festival 2017

Director Mohammad Rasoulof’sA Man of Integrityis a laudable film from Iran, describing corruption and religious intolerance in the Islamic Republic. It deservedly won the 2017 Cannes Film Festival’s Un certain regard award. While both Rasoulof and his contemporary Jafar Panahi have been found guilty of anti-regime propaganda and jailed for 5 years in 2011, they continue to make films within Iran that end up as international award winning films.How do they make films when they are supposed to be jailed or having a jail sentence looming over them? How is this famous duo able to film in the open streets Iranian towns and cities so frequently, unless the Republic implicitly approves the fame the duo gets for their country? Whatever be the reason, films such as A Man of Integrity are truly courageous. Several prominent and award-winning films made in 2017 deal with corruption in various parts of the world; this is one of the very best in that category.

220.  Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) (2017), based on his original story/script:  A very critical and philosophical look at corruption and religious intolerance in Iran today

The idyllic world of an educated hardworking Iranian family:
Hadis (Soudabeh Beizaee), Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad), and their son at home


A Man of Integrity is a fictional film about an educated couple from Tehran who decide to live away from the city, buy land and a house on mortgage in a small town and make a clean living by hard work. Reza, the husband, envisages a career of growing and harvesting goldfish on a fish farm while his wife Hadis works as a principal of a girls’ secondary school. They have a school-going son. Hadis has close relatives who live nearby.Their idyllic dream is slowly wrecked by a “company” run by well-placed goons who wants them evicted to acquire their land at very low price by creating escalating problems for Reza.The viewer learns that Reza is not the only one bullied by the “company” who have the law and local administration supporting their misdeeds. They even have motorcycle riders wearing black jackets who ride ominously after conducting acts of arson. Those affected by the company’s strong arm tactics are scared, remain mute, and suffer. The details of the “company” and its activities are never revealed; it does not matter. The only problem for the “company’s” long-term plan is that Reza is educated, smart, and resolute in his will to survive and live as he had originally dreamt of living with his family.The events that transpire in the film are similar to the events of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film Leviathan—only the outcome is remarkably different. In both films, evictions of a family to acquire land by the corrupt form the basic tale.The connection between the corrupt administration and religious forces also figure in both films.

220.  Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) (2017), based on his original story/script:  A very critical and philosophical look at corruption and religious intolerance in Iran today

Reza mulls over future steps to take as he waits for his wife Hadis


The original script of Rasoulof is not just about corruption in Iran but equally about principled folks using corruption to fight the bigger evil forces in a battle for survival. It provides interesting twists where the man who stands for principles cleverly uses bribes and tricks to get back at the corrupt forces. Similarly, his wife Hadis uses her wiles and power within her school to hit back at the corrupt forces encircling her husband’s life.There are sequences in the film where the man who is principled surreptitiously creates hooch by fermenting watermelon juice in a country where liquor is forbidden to be produced by or imbibed by orthodox Muslims.
A Man of Integrity is a film that presents the world of corruption in Iran. Foisting of false cases on innocent individuals for economic gain by the corrupt is not new.House searches by hoodlums stating they have complaints by the local religious bodies are a new twist, though such psychological pressure tactics occur beyond Iran. That dead members of non-Islamic families are not allowed to be buried in designated cemeteries is another form of persecution. School kids of families of non-Islamic faiths are not allowed to continue their studies, forcing families to relocate. Bribing the corrupt somehow works in Iran at all levels.

220.  Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof’s “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) (2017), based on his original story/script:  A very critical and philosophical look at corruption and religious intolerance in Iran today

Dead goldfish--more than a fish, a metaphor of the socio-political scenario 


Many casual viewers will miss out on the importance of goldfish in Iranian films. Panahi’s debut film The White Balloon and his later work Taxi deal with characters engrossed with this species of fish. In Iran, on their New Year's Day (Navruz/Novroze) a live goldfish is an important facet to the celebrations, just as a turkey is for Thanksgiving Day in USA. It is not a mere home aquarium attraction. Even Majid Majidi’s Song of Sparrows have goldfish as an important part of the film. Goldfish for Iranians is a symbol of good luck and/or an indicator of better times.
But the film A Man of Integrity, like the Russian film Leviathan, is not about corruption but how corruption affects men of integrity, whether they win or lose their fight.The Iranian film presents an ending that will make any sensible viewer about whether men of integrity, boldness and cleverness actually win.The interesting end of A Man of Integrity will provide the viewer a philosophical question on integrity for the astute viewer. That is where Rasoulof scores over compatriot Panahi—his films ask you the viewer to step back from the obvious story and look at the larger universal question—can you ultimately win?
P.S. The film A Man of Integrity won the best film award within the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival; and the Silver Hugo for the best screenplay at the Chicago Film festival . Rasoulof’s earlier feature film Good Bye (2011) has been reviewed earlier on this blog. (Click on the name of the film in this post script to access that review.) A Man of Integrity is one of the top 10 films of 2017 for the author. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film Leviathan (2014), referred to in this review, has been reviewed earlier on this blog. (Click on the name of the film in this post-script to access its review on this blog.)



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