Terrestrial Verses (2024)


The Screening Room @VTIFF Sat, Jul 6 7:00 PM


Iran | 77 minutes
In Farsi w/subtitles
Director: Ali Asgari & Alireza Khatami


This audacious film consists of nine scenes, all single-takes from a static camera, yet it is utterly riveting. In the vignettes, all set in Tehran, nine ordinary Iranians from a variety of backgrounds face off against an unseen, uncaring and frequently hostile bureaucrat. The absurdity and horror of authoritarian control is ultimately laid bare.  


A new father seeks to register his newborn son under the name David, but is told that the name is insufficiently Islamic; a 20-something rideshare driver caught on camera without a hijab attempts to retrieve her impounded car; a man with poem tattoos applies for a driver’s license; an elderly woman pleads with the police for the return of her beloved dog. None of it goes well. 


“Gripping,” says The New York Times. “Because each vignette is no more than a few minutes long and consists of Kafkaesque conversations that border on the absurd, Terrestrial Verses operates with a cumulative effect…When you don’t have much power, then the temptation to lord it over those who have even less is a strong one. Asgari and Khatami seem to know this well, and manage to make Terrestrial Verses into something approaching a thriller.”