28 Jul 2022
Roozbeh Misaghi, Sama Raoufi
Reza Amouzad, Serrodin Alavi
Obsession can be a dangerous thing. That’s the message of ‘Turquoise’, a meditative Iranian short-dil from Roozbeh Misaghi. It’s both very tight and very loose in its concept, showing us just enough to keep hooked but not too much to lose interest. It’s a short, which, and I don’t say this lightly, is as close to perfection as you’ll get.
A public announcement, which, wisely we don’t see, is sent out to a small rural farming village in Iran. The announcement states that there is a concealed treasure in the village, which will make the finder prosperous upon it’s return to the rightful owner. So, the mad treasure hunt begins - people stop farming and begin digging up land in search of the treasure. It’s a race which everyone living in this poor village wants to win - the chance to earn not just wealth, but also respect, and a way out of the monotony of farming life.
That monotonous sound is where we begin - the sound of pickaxes digging into the dry arid surface, broken only by the heavy breathes of the labourers. They aren’t farming, they’re looking for the treasure, and it doesn’t take long for someone to find it. What follows is shocking - the man is chased and cut down by another labourer - his brother. It doesn’t take long for the treasure hunt to dissolve into murder, as fathers injure sons, and wives kill husbands, all with the aspiration of finding the treasure. The web of shadows and secrecy that some villagers form gradually unravels until there is one man left standing - Morad (Reza Amouzad).
The treasure - the object which drives this mad descent into violence is a black box, it’s contents unknown. In fact, the villagers know nothing, acting purely on the notion that “surely it’s worth a lot that so many have died for it”. We never discover what’s in this destructive box, and we’re left to wonder whether this could all have been some cruel experiment by the rich, looking to investigate the extent man will go to in order to obtain wealth.
This kind of thoughtful filmmaking is largely down to director Roozbeh Misaghi, who also co-wrote the script with Sama Raoufi, as he guides the camera with grace, framing Morad’s isolation as his co-conspirators die and he emerges victorious. The camera operates gently, suiting the slow, meditative style, which means that when the moments of violence come, they are ten times more shocking, and cause far more profound thinking.
Perhaps most impressively, ‘Turquoise’ had to be shot in secret in Iran, beyond the purview of the moral police of the Islamic Republic, something which Misaghi himself has discussed in the past. There’s a clear critique of both Iranian and global politics and culture evident in the film - from the worthless of the treasure hunt to the spiral of decline that capitalistic inclinations cause. This is the right way to make a potent political statement, letting the camera, not words, do the talking.
‘Turquoise’ has already enjoyed much success at film festivals and has rightly received several accolades for it’s bleakly damning critique of society, all wrapped in the guise of outstanding filmmaking. It’s rare to see a short so well made, but even rarer to see one with the ability to make a genuine statement - ‘Turquoise’ emphatically ticks both those boxes.