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Terrestrial Verses reveals how ordinary Iranians navigate bizarre demands of the state

Terrestrial Verses
Aram (Sarvin Zabetian) is one of the characters interrogated in Terrestrial Verses.

A film highlighting the absurdity of state repression in Iran will have a short run at the VIFF Centre. Terrestrial Verses includes a series of vignettes showing average Iranians being interrogated by someone off-screen.

Each of the accused sits in a chair facing a stationary camera. Iran-based Ali Asgari and Toronto-based Alireza Khatami co-directed the film as well as provide voices. It will be shown in Vancouver on May 11, 12, and 16.

After Terrestrial Voices premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023, Iranian authorities prohibited Asgari from leaving the country or directing any more movies. Asgari and Khatami ended up being nominated for Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes.

The Vancouver International Film Festival also screened Terrestrial Voices last year as part of a program curated by frank theatre artistic and executive director Fay Nass, who was born and raised in Iran.

Watch the trailer for Terrestrial Verses.

Film fests honour Terrestrial Voices

The film went on to win nine awards. They include Best Film at Cine Festival en Pays de Fayence, Best Feature at The Hague Movies that Matter Festival, and Best Feature Film at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Terrestrial Voices also captured nine other nominations.

The title comes from a poem by iconoclastic Iranian feminist writer and director Forugh Farrokhzad. She died in a car crash at the age of 32 in 1967.

“Inspired by the intricate rhymes of ghazal, a classic form of Persian poetry, writer-directors Ali Asgari and Alireza Khatami have constructed a thoroughly modern work of bracing concision, elegance and blistering deadpan humor, one that pulses with sorrow and outrage over the absurdity of authoritarian dictates that aim to crush souls,” wrote Hollywood Reporter film critic Sheri Linden.

Watch a clip from Terrestrial Verses.

The VIFF Centre will present Terrestrial Verses on May 11, 12, and 16. For tickets and showtimes, visit the VIFF Centre website. Follow Pancouver on X (formerly Twitter) @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.