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Hot Docs 2014 Review: A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution

Jahangir Razmi remained anonymous for 27 years. The first photographer to do so in the history of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. His photo, Firing Squad in Iran won the prize in 1979 but Razmi fearing for his life, chose to remain anonymous until 2006. The photograph is part of a series showing political prisoners being executed in Iran after the revolution.

Montreal based director and visual artist, Bahman Tavoosi decided to recreate the photograph using a cast of international actors, many with their own harrowing stories not dissimilar to the human rights abuses in post-revolution Iran. Some of these actors are introduced to us and given a chance to tell their stories and what Firing Squad in Iran means to them.

Quite possibly the most original and poetic dissection of a famous photograph. It is not made evident to the viewer why Tavoosi after all these years wants to painstakingly recreate Firing Squad in Iran but thankfully he does and we get A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution as a result.

Ultimately by recreating the photo, humanity is restored to the victim’s and their executioners. It is also a reminder of how detached we become to photograph images. Once these events are made three dimensional again we are reminded of their true horror.

Tavoosi’s main concern over the two years spent recreating this photograph was in finding actors who understood the significance of the photo and who had their own personal stories. In doing this Tavoosi completely disregarded the age, race and gender of the actors. In doing so he has reminded us that photos like Firing Squad in Iran, belong to all of humanity.

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