A crucial civil rights issue receives dull, inelegant scrutiny in "Iranian Taboo," director Reza Allamehzadeh's documentary that attempts to shed light on the persecution and scapegoating of members of the Bahá'í faith by Iran's Islamic regime.
Allamehzadeh, reportedly banned from entering his native Iran (friends secretly filmed "Taboo's" Iran-set footage, while the director shot in such countries as France and Israel), takes an unsatisfying, two-pronged approach to this complex subject. The first element involves amateur video, presented with little depth or structure, of a Bahá'í mother and daughter's flight from Iran in search of religious freedom. Although this weakly shot material opens the film, it ends up popping up erratically, almost forgetfully.
The movie's second component features flat, wordy interviews — occasionally mixed with OK archival footage — with Iranian lawyers, scholars, activists and even local peasants who discuss Bahá'í history and the faith's second-class, protection-free status within Iran's repressive theo-political structure. (According to the film, enemies have long mischaracterized Bahá'í followers as spies, propagandists and idol worshipers — and that's just the half of it.)
Unfortunately, the movie skips over the sheer basics of the Bahá'í faith — its tenets, how it differs from Islam and other religions and its application to everyday life. As a result, less-initiated viewers may have trouble fully investing in the Iranian Bahá'ís' sad and painful plight.
"Iranian Taboo." No MPAA rating. In Farsi with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.