A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution
Wed, Mar 18, 5:30pm
Teatro Santa Ana
La Biblioteca, Reloj 50A
By Farrah A Bolvarde
Every now and then, a photograph is taken that is so riveting, so revealing of a moment in history, that it instantly captures the imagination of mass audiences and becomes an icon of its time. Such photographs are often symbols of resistance against oppressive regimes and might represent a decade, or even a century.
This is what happened in 1979 in post-revolution Iran, with a photograph of a mass execution of eleven political prisoners. It was published worldwide. The photographer was not identified the first time the picture was released, and he chose to maintain his anonymity for 26 years out of fear for his life. It was a powerful indictment of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980, and eventually, in 2006, after nearly three decades, Jahangir Razmi, the photographer, at last revealed his identity to the world.
The story of the photo and its hidden photographer alone would make a fascinating documentary, but Iranian-Canadian director Bahman Tavoosi’s film is much more than a historical retelling of facts. Tavoosi records his process of restaging the photograph.
In A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution, Tavoosi documents the meticulous restaging of the photo, from landscape to poses, with a cast of international actors. The performers, who must pose like the photo’s subjects, are either survivors of persecution or descendants of people who lost their lives in countries like South Africa, France, Algeria, Zimbabwe, or Poland, among others.
“It was an iconic image that reflected and represented certain qualities of the 20th century, such as resistance and revolutionism. To me, it was important to ask how an image can be elevated to such a position from which these strong connotations appear,” says Tavoosi.
Born in Iran in 1988 to a Kurdish-Turkish family, Bahman Tavoosi moved to Canada in 2006. His documentary Dress Rehearsal for an Execution was praised worldwide and received awards and nominations from festivals such as Hot Docs, Hot Springs, and RIDM.