Movie Review: Dame Sobh

Dame Sobh (Day Break)

Rarely does a film truly hit me like Dame Sobh (Day Break) by Hamid Rahmanian hit me. Filmed initially documentary-style, the beginning of Dame Sobh exposes readers to the gritty fundamentals of the Iranian Islamic law system. Mansour Ziaee commits murder after just moving to Tehran with his pregnant wife and parents. This fatal crime, punishable by execution in Iran, sends him straight to prison, where he awaits the verdict of his victim’s family. Under Islamic law, an inmate cannot be executed without the judgment of the victim’s family.

At the beginning of the film, the audience watches as Mansour is taken to be executed…only to be brought back to prison after his victim’s family neglects to show up. Once Mansour is sent back, the film replaces the documentary-style camera work with the usual fiction film style, allowing viewers to delve into Mansour’s mind as he contemplates his future. To sum up Mansour’s thoughts, the prison doctor put it best: “This poor thing’s situation is uncertain; he’s not on this side and not on that side. This is a kind of torture. If you are looking for someone who wants to die, here he is!”

While anticipating his fate, Mansour struggles to come to terms with the two judgments his victim’s family has to choose between—forgiveness and retribution. Throughout the course of the film, the storyline flashes back to Mansour’s life before the murder, allowing viewers to slowly understand his own personal fight between forgiveness and retribution. As Mansour slowly falls into himself during the forty days between his “executions,” the audience comes to understand that focal point of the movie is not whether or not Mansour is executed in the end, but the process by which it occurs and time before it.

Dame Sobh takes place in Iran, which according to the United Nations is one of the foremost nations to use the death penalty, having sentenced 108 people to death in 2003 alone. In conjunction with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “everyone has the right to life,” the United Nations encourages all nations to put an end to the death penalty. The United Nations is also working to end the execution of child offenders, in which many nations still participate. Thankfully, Iran is in the process of stopping the execution of child offenders on legal grounds.

This emotionally riveting movie shows how influential Islamic law is on Iranian law while simultaneously focusing on its effect on those it condemns. Dame Sobh is a gorgeously made film which finds beauty in the simplicity seen in every single shot. I would recommend this film in a heartbeat, as it touched my heart numerous times. It can be found at the Iowa City Public Library.

Amanda ShineInternational Movie Reviewer

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