The compelling NO LAND’S SONG, by Ayat Najafi, is a thought-provoking look at women’s rights in Iran, through the power of the female voice.
Composer Sara Najafi (sister to Ayat) aims to revive the female voice in Iran, a country that, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, has banned the appearance of female soloists in public. The only way women can sing solo is if they exclusively perform for a female audience. Sara, the first woman in Iran to achieve a degree in musical composition, is a determined figure, fully aware of the battles she faces, but resolute in her desire to counter them. No Land’s Song is a fascinating, multi-layered exploration of her difficult journey, which also involves fellow Iranian vocalists Sayeh Sodeyfi and Parvin Nafazi, as well as talented musicians and vocalists from France and Tunisia.
Sara’s valiant efforts to put on her concert lead to frustrating moments, perhaps alarming for audiences who may not be aware of the cultural conditions in Iran. Her frequent visits to the Ministry of Culture are secretly recorded- her microphone hidden in her hijab- and Ayat Najafi leaves the screen black while we listen to her exasperated attempts. In addition, there is something derisively humorous in her conversations with an Islamic scholar. Sara’s caustic, vexed expression is simply priceless as the scholar explains why female soloists can sexually arouse men, and so should not perform.
No Lands Song is an inspiring tale, excellently produced by Ayat Najafi and his team. It manages to display the hardships of Sara’s quest, as well as the sheer resolve and character of those who wish to perform. It is also a passion project for music. There are nods to other Iranian female soloists such as Qamar, who performed in the 1920, breaking several taboos with the beauty of her voice. Various scenes show the Iranian and French musicians performing together, collaborating through gorgeous melodies and stunning accompaniment. The music is absolutely beautiful- being able to listen to the mesmerising tones of the Iranian vocalists further shows just how important it is for the concert to go ahead.
A skilled, remarkable piece of filmmaking, No Land’s Song is a documentary that will have audiences contemplating and discussing its themes long after the credits roll. It is respectful of its subjects, carefully put together and vastly informative. Part political study, part musical voyage, this is a real highlight of the Cambridge Film Festival.
NO LAND’S SONG screens at Cambridge Film Festival at 16:30 on Monday 23rd October at the Queen’s Building, Emmanuel College, click here to buy tickets.