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In Tehran, a new father seeks to register the name (insufficiently Islamic, he is told) of his newborn son; a 20-something rideshare driver caught on camera without a hijab attempts to retrieve her impounded car; a man with poem tattoos applies for a driver’s license; an elderly woman pleads with the police for the return of her beloved dog. This taut, pulsing drama — composed of nine deceptively simple, single-take vignettes, each featuring an ordinary Iranian citizen facing an unseen bureaucrat — brilliantly incarnates the absurdity, hypocrisy, and seeds of defiance that belie authoritarian control.  



★★★★ “ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT AND PROVOCATIVE FILMS TO EMERGE FROM IRAN RECENTLY. Intrepid and original. A scathing critique of the poisoned power relations in the Islamic Republic, relations that corrupt interactions by people at every level of Iranian society.”
– Godfrey Cheshire,
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“CRITIC’S PICK. GRIPPING. Because each vignette is no more than a few minutes long and consists of Kafkaesque conversations that border on the absurd, TERRESTRIAL VERSES operates with a cumulative effect…what’s best about [the film] is its discipline, the way it draws the viewer into the story as more than just an observer…When you don’t have much power, then the temptation to lord it over those who have even less is a strong one. Asgari and Khatami seem to know this well, and manage to make TERRESTRIAL VERSES into something approaching a thriller.”
– Alissa Wilkinson, The New York Times
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“Demonstrates the far-reaching, constrictive force of Iran’s regime and the society it has created. It is also a canny representation of the kind of straight-faced authoritarian illogic that creates its own delusional reality, which is then forced upon a people…[the film] accrues depth as it goes on, finding more and more subtleties of absurdity and humiliation… One of the best vignettes, ‘Ali,’ depicts a filmmaker trying to get shooting permission for his movie — effectively turning TERRESTRIAL VERSES into a document of the difficult conditions of its own production.”
– Zachary Barnes, The Wall Street Journal

“A thoroughly modern work of bracing concision, elegance, and blistering deadpan humor.”
– Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

“A series of striking snapshots of everyday oppression in Iran…punchy first-person filmmaking… The cast is uniformly excellent, especially given the rigors of a presentation which provides the actors with literally nowhere to hide…we end up parsing the subject’s every flicker of expression, every subtle shift in body language and every hesitation in reply, for cracks and weaknesses. And we almost don’t realize we’re doing it, so subtly are we insinuated into the position of the power-holder in an interaction with the relatively powerless. Grips across its starkly elegant stanzaic form. And though co-writers and directors Khatami and Asgari are clearly on the side of the ordinary oppressed Iranian, perhaps their film is especially powerful in giving us the discomfiting view from the oppressor’s chair.”
– Jessica Kiang, Variety

“Icepick-precise vignettes about the petty bureaucracies of working-class life in Iran…these stories give off a powerful cumulative effect.”
– Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Finds bureaucratic comedy and tragedy in modern Iran. Through their concentrated and pared-down survey of institutional power, Asgari and Khatami show foremost how no behavior and social practice is spared the state’s gaze, and personal autonomy — especially for those outside the elites — remains only a myth.”
– David Katz, The Film Stage

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