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KARLOVY VARY 2024 Proxima :: Review: Nothing in Its Place
How far are people willing to go for their political beliefs, and how much can the ideology of a group influence the behavior of an individual? Nothing in Its Place holds up a mirror to more than one revolution..
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"I wanted to document the progression of the mental state of stateless people in a refugee camp." The director tells us more about his new film, in which he portrays refugees filming satirical sketches and preparing for a zombie..
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Xoftex is the name of a Greek refugee camp for Syrian and Palestinian asylum seekers. To pass the time, camp inhabitants such as Nasser make satirical short films and prepare to make a zombie film. Noaz Deshe explains how he..
Shanghai IFF 2023 :: A Review of 'Cause of Death: Unknown'
The first film by Ali Zarnegar receives an overall acceptable score. The writer and director's extensive experience, including his frequent involvement in short cinema, writing.., has had a positive impact on the film's quality..
Bahar Lellahi :: 40-year-old Iranian Female filmmaker Murdered in Prison
Bahar Lellahi, an Iranian director and screenwriter from the Northern city of Amol and a resident of Tehran, was killed at the Islamic Republic's detention center and was secretly buried in a cemetery near the city of Karaj..
Dead of Night :: A standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji
“Dead of Night”, a standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji, marking his directorial debut, delves into the struggles of an Iranian intellectual navigating political and personal challenges, promising a poignant exploration of human resilience..
BERLINALE 2024 Encounters :: Interview :: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro’s experimental, hour-long film 'You Burn Me', an interesting work based on texts by Cesare Pavese and Sappho about the relationship between two women, was included in this year’s Berlinale Encounters program..
Super Size Me :: A terrific cheeky stunt :: small wonder Morgan Spurlock never matched it
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Cannes 2024 review :: 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' - A powerful rebellion in the name of art & freedom
Mohammad Rasoulof examines Iran's contemporary tensions through the internalization of turmoil by a family of four. It's a suspenseful and bold call to arms for those..
Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme d’Or at 2024 Cannes Film Festival
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Cannes 2024 :: ‘Grand Tour’ :: Review :: In Search of Lost Time
Closer in spirit to an essay film like "Sans Soleil" than to a conventional love story, this lushly abstract travelogue is as gorgeous as it is impenetrable. Miguel Gomes’ Beguiling Colonial Romance Travels from Saigon to Shanghai in..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘All We Imagine as Light’ :: A Sensual Triumph
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Cannes 2024 :: Mohammad Rasoulof Speaking to IndieWire
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Cannes 2024 :: Donald Trump Origin Tale ‘The Apprentice’ Gets 11-Minute Ovation At Its Cannes World Premiere
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Cannes Film Festival 2024 ::
Francis Ford Coppola Finally Talks Megalopolis

The Oscar-winning legend has been the subject of deafening rumors about his self-financed new epic. For the first time in public, he finally got to tell his story...
UPDATE :: I exist to narrate :: Mohammad Rasoulof writes about his forced departure from Iran
By publishing a post on his personal Instagram page, he announced his forced departure from Iran. His writing, which you can read here, is a testament to the many artists who were driven..
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is finally online!
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is a short film Written & Directed by Nora Niasari. It follows Mr Farid, an exiled Iranian actor, who teaches drama to reluctant asylum seeker teenagers inside an Australian Detention Centre..
Films Boutique boards Mohammad Rasoulof’s Cannes Competition title
Berlin-based Films Boutique has secured world sales rights to Mohammad Rasoulof’s 'The Seed Of The Sacred Fig' ahead of its premiere in Competition at Cannes, and has closed a distribution deal in France..
Nika's Last Breath :: BBC World Service Documentaries
Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester. An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran's security forces, a leaked document understood to have been..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 :: Michel Hazanavicius & Mohammad Rasoulof Movies in Competition Lineup
Cannes Film Festival has added some international titles to Competition Lineup: Hazanavicius‘ 'The Most Precious of Cargoes' and Rasoulof‘s 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig'..
'Biological Terror?!' :: Speculations about Alidoosti's unknown disease
According to some sources, Taraneh told her colleagues that she passed out during her interrogation by IRGC intelligence agents and then, realized that she was injected with an unknown ampoule, after which she felt dizzy..
Taraneh Alidoosti's mother: Pray for her! Her disease is severe!
The celebrated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti's mother has announced that her daughter is suffering from an illness of "unknown origin". Earlier, there were reports that Taraneh Alidoosti was ill and hospitalized..
‘The Apprentice’ :: A dive into the underbelly of the American empire
The drama charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn. A first look at the forthcoming film from Ali Abbasi, set to premiere at Cannes..
STOCKFISH 2024 :: Review: Tove’s Room
A new biopic about Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen and her tortured marriage to the sadistic news editor Victor Andreasen. We’re in Copenhagen in 1969, and the entire action of this tense, neurotic – yet very intriguing – kammerspiel takes place..
American Fiction :: Movie Review
Jeffrey Wright gives a knockout performance in this edgy, Oscar-nominated comedy. Cord Jefferson marries broad humour with affecting familial dysfunction and biting observations on race. This season’s edgiest comedy arrives with richly deserved Oscar nominations for..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Silent Trees
Zwiefka – whose last film, Vika! has enjoyed a healthy festival run and is still travelling the world – now trains her lens on a completely different topic: the story of a Kurdish refugee girl stranded in the no man’s land between Belarus and Poland...
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Immortals
Immortals is a dystopian film that turns into an ode to fragility, and it shows the contrasting feelings of those who allowed themselves the luxury of hoping that David might kill Goliath. Maja Tschumi’s film is built around the hopes and broken dreams, but most of all the..
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers Call Out AMPAS Over Omission
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers (IIFMA) has written to AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to protest the omission of murdered Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui from the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Award..
Oscar 2024 :: How to Watch Every 2024 Oscar-Nominated Movie
It’s time to fire up your Letterboxd, roller-skate out of the real world, and head off to movie land. The 2024 Oscar nominations have been officially announced, giving you a perfect watchlist for catching up on all the films you..
Berlin: Indie Juries Pick :: ‘Sex’, ‘Dying’ and ‘Cake’
Matthias Glasner's German family epic 'Sterben' (Dying), Iranian feature 'My Favourite Cake,' and Dag Johan Haugerud's Norwegian drama 'Sex' picked up multiple awards from the independent juries at the 74th Berlinale..
BERLINALE 2024 Awards :: Mati Diop’s Dahomey bags the Golden Bear
The 74th Berlinale (15-25 February) was brought to a close tonight by the traditional awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, which saw the triumph of Mati Diop’s Dahomey, the winner of this year’s Golden Bear..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Competition Review: Architecton
Several thousand years of architectural history are woven together in Kossakovsky's visionary blockbuster, which almost without dialogue - but with images as sharp as flint and a soundtrack as massive as a pillow - is a total cinematic..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Review: Afterwar
An immersive and uncategorisable film, shot over a period of 15 years, was made in close collaboration with its four Kosovar protagonists. A dark chapter in modern European history draws to a close. Haunted by memories of the past and caught in an uncertain state of limbo..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Review: My Favourite Cake
All eyes were on writer-directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha – or, rather, their absence – at the world premiere of their new film, My Favourite Cake, which has just made its debut in the Competition section of..
NAVALNY (2022) :: Navalny’s Plight in a Russian Prison Highlighted
The fact that this documentary movie involves one of the most brazen incidents of state sponsored assassination in memory means this is a unique document of a very singular man. After almost being poisoned to death in 2020..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: The line-up of the 2024 CPH:DOX competitions
CPH:DOX unveils the films nominated across all six award categories. The selection features 66 films in competition, among which 47 are world premieres, 17 international premieres and 2 European premieres..
BERLINALE 2024 :: ‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran
‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran After Authorities Banned Travel to Berlinale: ‘Like Parents Forbidden From Looking at Their Newborn Child’..
Farshad Hashemi :: Director of 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others' :: Interview
“I can’t predict the future, but I know this is just the beginning”. The winner of Göteborg’s Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award plays with fact and fiction in his debut film..
BERLINALE 2024 :: EXCLUSIVE :: Trailer for Berlinale Panorama entry 'My Stolen Planet'
The German-Iranian co-production is a diary-style narrative by Farahnaz Sharifi, from her childhood to the 2022 Women, Life, Freedom uprising..
Farshad Hashemi's film wins The Ingmar Bergman Debut Award at Goteborg Film Festival
The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award goes to Farshad Hashemi's feature debut 'Me, Maryam, The Children And 26 Others'. The prize consists of a stay at The Bergman Estate on..
‘Eternal’ :: Rotterdam Review :: A soulful exploration of love and regret
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IFFR 2024 Tiger Competition :: 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others'
Farshad Hashemi's feature debut, Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others, which has just world-premiered in IFFR's Tiger Competition, will inevitably inspire associations with Iranian cinema's tradition of intertwining..
Berlinale Calls for Iran to Allow Directors to Attend Festival
The Berlin Film Festival has called on Iran to allow directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha to leave the country to attend the world premiere of their new film My Favorite Cake..
"My Favourite Cake" :: to premiere in the Berlinale Competition
Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha’s My Favourite Cake to premiere in the Berlinale Competition. Last year, the pair were banned from travelling in relation to their film..
Asghar Farhadi, Iranian filmmaker :: “I saw how powerful women are”
In a new interview with french newspaper Le Monde, Farhadi reveals he won't be making any new films in Iran, for the time being, as an act of resistance against the regime..
IPADOC 2024 :: Review :: Son of the Mullah
Nahid Persson pays tribute to Rouhollah Zam, an exiled Iranian activist and journalist with a tragic fate, with a moving film about the pursuit of regime opponents. “I had a beautiful life before I left Iran”..
‘Gunda’ :: Berlin Review :: Intensely moving and quite genuinely unique
Anyone who never thought they could imagine the feelings of an animal will have their mind changed here. Viktor Kossakovsky’s extraordinary film is every bit as resonant as Bresson’s ’Balthazar’ or Bela Tarr’s ’Turin Horse’..
BERLINALE 2024 :: “Sons” by Gustav Möller :: Selected for main Competition
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BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Encounters
The Berlinale (15-25 February) has announced the full line-ups of its Competition and Encounters sections. Twenty films will vie for the Golden and Silver Bears, including two debut features..
La chimera :: A fairy tale with a social conscience and plenty of humor
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Iran: PEN International Calls for investigation over Baktash Abtin’s tragic death
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Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers Is a Holiday Triumph
Alexander Payne's new film The Holdovers, starring Paul Giamatti, is the kind of wonderful comedy-drama we used to take for granted. Today it feels like a cinematic miracle. In Payne’s work, one individual’s failings..
Film Orgs call on Iranian authorities to drop charges against two movie directors
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Absence :: Ali Mosaffa's mystical thriller
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‘Cafe’ :: Review :: Screened at 64th Thessaloniki Int. Film Festival 2023
May seem absurdist, but it is at least partially autobiographical. Like his countryman Jafar Panahi, a ban on filmmaking didn’t stop Mihandoust and, in the three years he was waiting for the sentence to be enacted, he..
Stockholm International Film Festival Awards 2023
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Tokyo Film Festival 2023
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Nika's Last Breath - BBC World Service Documentaries

Secret document says
Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester

April 30, 2024
By Bertram Hill, Aida Miller and Michael Simkin
BBC Eye Investigation

An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran's security forces, a leaked document understood to have been written by those forces says.

It has let us map what happened to 16-year-old Nika Shakarami who vanished from an anti-regime protest in 2022. Her body was found nine days later. The government claimed she killed herself.

We put the report's allegations to Iran's government and its Revolutionary Guards. They did not respond.


Nika was just 16 years old when she disappeared during protests against Iran's strict dress code for women

Marked "Highly Confidential", the report summarises a hearing on Nika's case held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) - the security force that defends the country's Islamic establishment. It includes what it says are the names of her killers and the senior commanders who tried to hide the truth.

It contains disturbing details of events in the back of an undercover van in which security forces were restraining Nika. These include:

  • One of the men molested her while he was sitting on her
  • Despite being handcuffed and restrained, she fought back, kicking and swearing
  • An admission that this provoked the men to beat her with batons

There are numerous fake Iranian official documents in circulation, so the BBC spent months checking every detail with multiple sources.

Our extensive investigations indicate the papers we obtained do chronicle the teenager's last movements.

Nika Shakarami's disappearance and death were widely reported, and her picture has become synonymous with the fight by women in Iran for greater freedoms. As street protests spread across Iran in the autumn of 2022, her name was shouted by crowds furious at the country's strict rules on the compulsory veil [hijab].

The Woman, Life, Freedom movement had been sparked just days earlier by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Jina Amini. She died from injuries sustained in police custody according to a UN fact-finding mission after being accused of not wearing her hijab properly.

In Nika's case, her family found her body in a mortuary more than a week after she disappeared from a protest. But Iran's authorities denied Nika's death was connected to the demonstration and, after conducting their own investigation, said that she had died by suicide.

Just before she vanished, Nika was filmed on the evening of 20 September near Laleh Park in central Tehran, standing on a dumpster setting fire to hijabs.

Others around her chanted "death to the dictator" - referring to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What she could not have known at the time is that she was being watched, as the classified report makes clear.

Map of Nika's last movements, according to the document

Addressed to the IRGC's commander-in-chief, it says it is based on extensive talks with its teams that policed that protest.

Monitoring the demonstration were several undercover security units, the document's account begins.

It says one of these - Team 12 - suspected the teenager "of leadership, due to her unconventional behaviour and repeated calls with her mobile phone".

The team sent one of its operatives into the crowd, posing as a protester, to confirm Nika was indeed one of the demonstration's leaders. Then, according to the report, he called in his team to arrest her. But she fled.

Her aunt had previously told BBC Persian that Nika rang a friend that night to say she was being chased by security forces.

Almost an hour passed before she was spotted again, says the report, when she was detained and put in the team's vehicle - an unmarked freezer van.

Graphic of the inside of the van Nika was beaten in, according to the document

Nika was in the rear compartment with three Team 12 members - Arash Kalhor, Sadegh Monjazy, and Behrooz Sadeghy.

Their team leader Morteza Jalil was up front with the driver.

The group then attempted to find somewhere to take her, the report says.

They tried a temporary police camp nearby but were turned away because it was overcrowded.

So they continued to a detention centre, a 35-minute drive away, whose commander initially agreed to admit Nika. But then he changed his mind.

"The accused [Nika] was constantly swearing and chanting," he told investigators for the report.

"At that time, there were 14 other female detainees at the station and my perception was that she could agitate the others.

"I was worried she would cause a riot".

Morteza Jalil once again contacted his IRGC HQ for advice, says the report, and was told to head to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

En route, he said he began to hear crashing noises behind him coming from the pitch-dark rear compartment of the van.

We know what he was hearing, from the testimony outlined in the document from the men guarding
Nika in the back.

This is a reproduction of the original document (omitting some information that could potentially identify the source)

One of them, Behrooz Sadeghy, said as soon as she had been put back into the van after being rejected by the detention centre, Nika had started to swear and shout.

"Arash Kalhor gagged her mouth with his socks but she started struggling. Then Sadegh [Monjazy] laid her on the chest freezer and sat on her. The situation calmed," he told investigators.

"I don't know what happened, but after a few minutes she started swearing. I couldn't see anything, I could only hear fighting and bashing."

But Arash Kalhor gave further chilling details.

Excerpt from the document passed to the BBC

He says he briefly turned on his phone torch and saw Sadegh Monjazy "[has] put his hand inside her trousers".

Arash Kalhor said after that they lost control.

"He doesn't know… who [was doing it], but he could hear… the baton hitting the accused [Nika]... 'I started to kick and punch but really didn't know if I was hitting our guys or the accused.'"

But Sadegh Monjazy contradicted Arash Kalhor's statement, which he said was motivated by professional jealousy. He denied putting his hand in her trousers - but said he could not deny that he became "aroused" while sitting on her and touched Nika's buttocks.

He said this provoked Nika - despite the fact her hands were tied behind her back - to scratch him and jolt so that he fell over.

Excerpt from the document passed to the BBC

This is a reproduction of the original document (omitting some information that could potentially identify the source)

"She kicked at my face, so I had to defend myself."

From the van's cabin, Morteza Jalil ordered the driver to pull over.

He opened the rear door to discover Nika's lifeless body.

He said he cleaned the blood from her face and head - "which were not in a good condition".

This echoes the state in which Nika's mother says she eventually found her daughter in the mortuary, and Nika's death certificate - obtained by BBC Persian in October 2022 - which states she was killed by "multiple injuries caused by blows with a hard object".

Team leader Morteza Jalil admitted he didn't try to find out what had happened.

"I was only thinking about how to transfer her and didn't ask any questions of anyone. I only asked: 'Is she breathing?' I think it was Behrooz Sadeghy who answered, 'no, she is dead'."

With a killing on his hands, Jalil called the IRGC's HQ for a third time.

On this occasion, he spoke to a more senior officer, codenamed "Naeem 16".

"We already had deaths in our stations, and I didn't want the number to rise to 20," Naeem 16 told the investigation. "Bringing her to the base wouldn't have solved any problems."

He told Jalil to simply "dump her on the street". Jalil said they left Nika's body in a quiet street under Tehran's Yadegar-e-Emam highway.

The report concludes that a sexual assault caused the fight in the rear compartment of the van, and that strikes from Team 12 had caused Nika's death.

"Three batons and three Tasers were all used. It is not clear which one of the blows was the fatal one," it says.

The report contradicts the government's narrative of what happened to Nika. Nearly a month after her funeral, state television broadcast the results of the official investigation, which said Nika had jumped to her death from a building.

It showed CCTV of a person it claimed was Nika entering an apartment block, but Nika's mother told BBC Persian in a phone interview that she could not "under any circumstances, confirm that person is Nika".

"We all know that they are lying," Nasrin Shakarami later told a BBC documentary, discussing authorities' claims about the deaths of protesters.

The BBC Eye investigation was not just concerned with the content of the report, but whether it could be trusted as an artefact.

Sometimes, what appear to be official Iranian documents and other materials circulating on the internet are found to have been faked.

Most of these counterfeit documents, however, are easy to spot because they clearly diverge from official formatting - showing erroneous spacing and letter headings, or containing significant grammatical or spelling errors.

They might also include the wrong official slogan or logo for the year they purport to originate from, or an anachronistic title for a government agency or department, for example.

Another indicator is language that does not match the very specific style that tends to be used by Iranian official bodies.

The document our investigation centred on contained a few such inconsistencies. For instance, the "Naja" police force quoted in the report was known as "Faraja" at the time.

Therefore, to further test the document's veracity, we gave it to a former Iranian intelligence officer who has seen hundreds of legitimate ones.

He rang the IRGC archive - using an official code issued each day to senior intelligence officers in Iran - to check if the case file this report was allegedly part of really existed and what it was about.

He received confirmation that it did, and that the report's number showed it was part of a 322-page case file on anti-government protesters in 2022.

While we can never be 100% certain, this gave us confidence that it is genuine.

His unique access to the IRGC also helped us iron out another mystery - the identity of "Naeem 16", the man who told the team to dump Nika's body.

The former intelligence officer did this by making another call - this time to someone inside Iran's military apparatus. He was told Naeem 16 is the call sign for a Captain Mohammad Zamani, serving in the IRGC.

That name is listed as one of the attendees at the five-hour hearing into Nika's death that the report summarises.

We put the allegations to the IRGC and the Iranian government. They did not respond.

The men responsible for Nika's death were not punished, so far as we know.

Social media Undated photo showing Nika Shakarami (L), who was killed during protests in Iran in September 2022, and her sister Aida Shakarami (R)
Nika with her sister Aida (R) who has herself now been arrested. Social media

A clue as to why that might be the case can be found in the document itself. All of Team 12 - who were at the hearing - are listed in the report and to the right of their names is the group to which they belong: "Hezbollah".

This refers to an Iranian paramilitary group, Hezbollah, unrelated to the Lebanese group of the same name. Its members are used by the IRGC but sometimes operate outside its jurisdiction, as the report seems to acknowledge:

"Since the above persons belonged to the forces of Hezbollah, following up this case beyond obtaining the necessary commitments and security guarantees has not been possible," it says.

IRGC officer Naeem 16, on the other hand, was given a written reprimand, it adds.

As many as 551 protesters were killed by security forces during Iran's Woman, Life, Freedom movement, most of them by gunfire, according to the UN's fact-finding mission.

The protests subsided after a few months due to the bloody crackdown by security forces. There followed a lull in activity by Iran's morality police, but a new crackdown on breaches of the Islamic dress code began earlier this month.

Among those to have been arrested is Nika's elder sister, Aida..

 



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