Starless DreamsPurchase Tickets
Winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival (in addition to numerous other awards), Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s Starless Dreams is one of the most poignant and aesthetically rigorous explorations of stolen childhood ever made. Set primarily inside a girl’s “rehabilitation center” near Tehran, this documentary showcases the sisterly bonding and solidarity that builds among a diverse cross-section of adolescents who are locked up on various charges (from drug possession to car theft to premeditated murder). These girls and their criminal acts, the film reveals, are products of the impoverished and exploitative environment in which they were forced to grow up, enduring verbal, physical, and sexual abuse that continues to haunt them inside the juvenile detention facility. The young subjects’ personal testimonies, while shattering, suggest their capacity to move forward and create a brighter future without forgetting the past or letting go of memories that are as dark as a starless night. There is even a playfulness to the girls’ relationship to Oskouei’s gently inquisitive camera, which observes them with an empathetic tenderness lacking in most documentaries. As a reminder of just how vital the hope for a better life is to individuals who have been deprived of comforts that many audiences take for granted, Starless Dreams is a stunning, unforgettable cinematic experience.
– By David Scott Diffrient