A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution
Educational/Institutional DVD: $248
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A film by Bahman Tavoosi. Canada, 2013, 47 mins.
For classroom use in: Art History, Cultural Anthropology, Human Rights, International Relations, Iranian Studies, Journalism, Middle Eastern Studies, Photography, and Politics.
About the Film
Since the Pulitzer Prize for journalism was established nearly a hundred years ago; only one winning photograph has ever had an anonymous creator. In 2006, after three decades of fearing for his life, Jahangir Razmi at last revealed himself to be the photographer of “Firing Squad in Iran,” the 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the execution of eleven Kurdish men just after the end of the Iranian Revolution. A DRESS REHEARSAL FOR AN EXECUTION records the multi-year process of meticulously recreating the photograph—an icon of resistance.
The story of the photo alone would make a fascinating documentary, but Montreal-based director and visual artist Bahman Tavoosi’s film is much more than an historical retelling of facts. Tavoosi records his process of restaging the photograph and meticulously seeks out a suitable location and cast. The source material becomes a muse, and a dramatic history is exposed and developed like a negative.
The documentary interlaces archival news footage, reflections from political refugees, music, and literature as Razmi and filmmaker Bahman Tavoosi search for a location and audition actors, whose real connection to this stage is personal—many are refugees. In the end, the photograph, crew, and actors become an assembly of mourners.
Tavoosi dissects the role of documentary photography as art form and social commentary while questioning and highlighting creative license and political history in this ambitious, cinematic and riveting piece of filmmaking.
About the Filmmaker
Bahman Tavoosi is an award winning Canadian Iranian director, writer, and producer. He began his career as a journalist and screenwriter in Iran at the age of 18. Soon after, he was making short films for both TV channels and theatrical release. He moved to Canada in 2006 where he completed a few short films before directing A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution, his first feature length documentary. A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution unfolds the process of remaking one of the most controversial images of our time. The film has gained much attention from the international public, media, and festivals. Press has called the film a “masterpiece,” “the most original dissection of a famous photograph,” and “similar to Oscars nominee Act of Killing.” Newspapers such as Toronto Star and National Post named the documentary one of the 10 must-watch films of the year.
In the Press
“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 (Apartheid) and France (the Algerian War), among others.”—Hans Morgenstern, Miami New Times
“Clocking in at roughly an hour, A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution is a thought-provoking meditation on art imitating life, a documentary that offers a short viewing time, but hours of debate.”—Sam Cooper, Pretty Clever Films
“A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution leaves you thinking of more than what you thought Tavoosi’s doc was about. It may be one of the shorter films at the festival, but its messages are just as dominant.”—Addison Wylie, Wylie Writes
“It is the magnificent narration that carries the film through, helped by the music; together these two elements effortlessly weave together the dramatic news footage of war and the lengthy footage of auditions and rehearsals on site. …Tavoosi has succeeded in performing a masterful ritual: by pushing the limits of documentary cinema he has baptized the photograph with the music of Chopin and Verdi, the strains of Maria Callas, and the poetry of Vallejo, and elevated Razmi’s “Firing Squad in Iran” among greatest icons of the 20th century.”—Vincenzo Pietropaolo, Point of View Magazine
“Creating the ambiance of the revolution tension with the presentation of original clips, the film perfectly involves its audience in the emotions of the victims… They say a photo is worth a thousand words but it is this film that fully speaks to the injustices that took place in this turbulent time in Iranian history.”—Marc Olivier Laramée, The Concordian
“A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution reveals both accurate depictions of history, and also the darkest moments of war and revolution. The importance of image, and its indelible imprint on our cultural, social, and political psyches, is the basis for this exceptional film.”—Oaksville News
“Why it’s on our Watchlist: Tavoosi meticulously searched for an appropriate location and cast to recreate the image with. He worked with revolutionaries and those affected by rebellions around the globe for his re-staging.”—CHCH
Selected Festivals & Awards
Award of Merit, The IndieFEST Film Awards
Cinematheque Quebecois, Montreal, Canada
Innis Town Hall, Toronto, Canada
Edinburgh International Film Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden
Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, Montreal, Canada
Cinemateca Boliviana, La Paz, Bolivia
Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, Burma, Myanmar
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Hollywood Film Festival
Show me Justice Film Festival
Columbia Gorge Film Festival
Cape Cod Film Festival
Global Vision Film Festival, Alberta, Canada
Amnesty International, Toronto
Cinema Politica, Montreal, Canada
Montreal International Documentary Festival, Montreal, Canada
Oakville Festivals of Film and Art, Ontario, Canada
Ridgewood International Film Festival
Watch the Trailer
A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution Press Kit
Click thumbnails for high-res press photos: