Camera phone documentary offers a slice of Tehran

Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:36pm EST
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By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters Life!) - When Sepideh Farsi faced government restrictions over shooting a film in Tehran during election season this year, she turned to her mobile phone.

Using nothing more than a Nokia N95 camera phone, she roamed the streets recording conversations with taxi drivers, women in beauty salons, actors, magicians and restless youth in cafes.

The result is an arresting documentary about life in the crowded, polluted capital city of a country under international sanctions over its nuclear energy ambitions and experiencing the worst unrest since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

It's not quite fly-on-the-wall, since Farsi guides the conversations and spent six months editing one month's worth of material, but a covert picture of life emerges in "Tehran Bedoune Mojavez" (Tehran Without Permission) in only slightly grainy images that work on a large screen.

The easy use and discretion offered by the mobile made people more inclined to talk, Farsi said at the Dubai International Film Festival this week where the documentary was shown.

"The telephone is so banal that people talk more and it gives more intimacy," she said. "A camera is always intimidating. They put a mike and flash a light -- there is always this distance between the one filming and the one filmed. But here it's reduced to a minimum."

As it turned out, the mobile was the technology of the times.

With the government cracking down on media as supporters of opposition candidates took to the streets to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection, Iranians used phone photography to relay images to sites such as Twitter and YouTube.   Continued...

<p>A man uses a mobile phone to record images of a protest in Tehran in this undated photo made available June 22, 2009. REUTERS via Your View</p>