By Nazanine Nouri
The world premiere of the documentary “Shirin Ebadi: Until We are Free” took place this week at the Venice International Film Festival, in the presence of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi herself.
“It is my pleasure to be here but I wish festivals like this were held in our country too,” Mrs. Ebadi said. “Especially when I hear that the talk is mostly about Iran and the issue of #democracy.”
Iran is very much in the spotlight at the festival this year, with two Iranian filmmakers in the running for the top competition prize, the Golden Lion: the imprisoned director Jafar Panahi, with his movie “No Bears,” and Vahid Jalalvand’s “Beyond the Wall.” The main jury, meanwhile, includes the famous Iranian actress Leila Hatami.
Mrs. Ebadi regretted that the Iranian artists present did not take part in talks and discussions held in Venice on the topic of democracy in Iran.
“This is shocking and saddening for people who believe in committed art,“ she added in a Sept. 6 Instagram post. “Undoubtedly, the restrictions that exist for Iranian artists are understandable, but their presence in such programs can be important and an effective step towards the realization of #committed art and the democracy movement.”
The feature-length documentary tells the story of Mrs. Ebadi – one of Iran’s first female judges and a human rights lawyer defending women and children in Iran – who went on to become the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. The film illustrates one woman’s struggle against the system, and depicts Mrs. Ebadi as a woman who never gives up.
“As countries around the world continue to take away the rights of women, Shirin Ebadi continues to fight for justice,” said Dawn Gifford Engle, the film’s award-winning writer and director, in an Instagram post. “This is a story about how quickly things can change, and how fragile democracy and human freedom can be.”
“Shirin Ebadi: Until We are Free” is the seventh film in PeaceJam Production’s award winning “Nobel Legacy Film Series,” which began in 2014 with the World Premiere of Desmond Tutu’s life story: “Children of the Light” at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.
The PeaceJam Foundation is a global youth organization set up by 14 Nobel Peace Laureates including Mrs. Ebadi. The aim is to foster future Nobel prizewinners.
The documentary is narrated by actor Laurel Harris, a multi award-winning producer and American actress best known as Willem Dafoe’s wife in “Odd Thomas.” She also narrated Dawn Gifford Engle’s previous documentary, “The Dalai Lama: Scientist,” which premiered at Venice in 2019.
“It has been an honor to work with so many remarkable Nobel peace laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shirin Ebadi, as part of the PeaceJam Nobel Legacy film series and to lend my voice to Shirin’s story of fighting for women and children to be treated with basic human dignities,” Harris told Variety.