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TORONTO 2019 TIFF Docs

Review: Love Child

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- Eva Mulvad's remarkable documentary is a heart-breaking chronicle of an Iranian refugee family living in limbo as they await a decision on their request for political asylum in Turkey

Review: Love Child

The Danish filmmaker, screenwriter, producer and director of photography Eva Mulvad presented her latest feature film in the documentary section of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF Docs. In this film, the author of A Modern Man [+see also:
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and Enemies of Happiness gathers testimony from the three members of an Iranian refugee family trapped in a state of bureaucratic uncertainty as they wait for their request for political asylum in Turkey to be processed. Love Child is a remarkable work, chronicling the most recent years in the lives of two lovers and their illegitimate son, who made their escape from Tehran and the morals of Sharia law governing their country out of fear that they would be sentenced to public execution for having conceived a child outside of their respective marriages.

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The first, highly disturbing images of the film are the only ones to have been filmed on Iranian soil. In this sequence, shot on a mobile phone, we see a desperate man confessing his life to be in grave danger. Standing before the camera, Sahand claims that he doesn’t know whether he’ll be dead or alive by the following day. This marks the start of a journey from which there’s no turning back; one which will change the life of this man and the lives of those he loves, saving them from the certain death that awaits them in their homeland.

From 2012 until the present day, Eva Mulvad followed Sahand, his mistress Leila and their son Mani in their attempt to be the family they always wanted to be. The first step they had to take in order to achieve this was to rid themselves of the many lies and smokescreens they’d manufactured in Iran in order to stay alive. In this respect, the most poignant sequence can be found at the beginning of the film, when Leila announces to Mani that his uncle Sahand is actually his father. Without disturbing the context of the action nor the chain of events surrounding it, Mulvad’s camera settles in the dining room, as if an invisible and impassive being, in order to record the powerlessness of this child, who vents his frustration by insulting his new father. Powerlessness will go on to become the natural state of these refugees during the years that follow.

Love Child is an honest representation of this ongoing state of powerlessness, but also of all those years the family loses while imprisoned in the flawed, bureaucratic system of Turkey, which has been faltering under the weight of asylum requests since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. The director shows the couple in all their fears, depicting their harsh exchanges, their moments of exaggerated anxiety or euphoria, their first jobs, the repetitive rituals they engage in and which punctuate all of our lives (birthday parties), as well as opening a window onto the couple’s therapy sessions. Love Child is an exercise in honesty and realism. It examines the situation of refugees and provides the latter with the voice they deserve in order that their rights might finally be heard and recognised.

Love Child is produced by Danish Documentary Production and Grunnet Film. International sales of the film are in the hands of the Austrian group Autlook Filmsales GmbH.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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