Stronger than a bullet is told through the eyes of a war photographer; Saeid Sadeghi, who at that time was a supporter of the Iranian Revolution. His photographs were and still are an important tool for government propaganda.
This is my journey as well. Together with my family, I took the same train as Saeid does in the movie, Ebrahimi explains.
Maryam Ebrahimi is born in Theran and can tell us that she made the film because of her close involvement to the war. She and her family were forced to move to the border town between Iran and Iraq for 2 years. There she witnessed all the misery the war brought to people and especially to the children.
Saeid tells my story as well, because my best childhood friend died in the war, as a martyr, when he was only 14 years old. Therefore, I have always wondered why innocent children are brainwashed and choose to leave their family and their home to go out to war. When I got older, I realized how this propaganda machinery dominated our system and that I might have been a martyr myself, if I had been a boy.
This film-production took 6 years. Ebrahimi can tell us that the reasons for this were many, but first and foremost because it is difficult to get permission and access to film in Iran. You risk to constantly be stopped, searched and questioned about the purpose of your visit. At the same time, she can tell that the return to her home country was a strong psychological perception.
It was also a tough psychological journey for me because it brought back childhood memories. I, together with my generation, have great trauma from this time; eight long years of bloody war. So, it wasn’t easy at all.
Despite the long tough journey, Maryam Ebrahimi is glad that she made this film, partly because she felt a responsibility for the young martyrs.
I was thinking that it is my responsibility to give these people a voice. It’s the first documentary about the Iran / Iraq war that shows the true face of the war. We have several thousand propaganda films that make the war holy. That identity is not correct, it's only about ideology, power and a bloody regime. Therefore, this film tells the truth and for that I am happy.
Further Ebrahimi tells us that it was difficult to find someone who wanted to tell this story. She interviewed many people, but most of them wanted to put the war behind them, so at some point it seemed almost impossible. At the same time, she had to be careful in the approach because people looked at her as unreliable and an enemy to the revolution.
Every time I talked to people, I felt that they were always changing the theme. Saeid was the first person to open up and he told that he was ashamed. It shocked me that someone could be so honest. He had a bad conscience for his past. It took a long time to build his trust, also because his feelings were not balanced. The journey woke up our memories, but at the same time it was good therapy for us both.
In the film Saeid goes on a journey and crosses the landscape looking for people he photographed at the time, hoping to meet some of the survivors. Ebrahimi can tell that photography was an important tool and a big part of the propaganda. Photographers were sent to war zones, and their pictures were later used in schoolbooks and blown up to large propaganda posters.
This is also one of the reasons I chose to use Saeid as the narrator. Photography was a very powerful tool during the war and even today you can see big paintings of martyrs. These paintings are reproduced from photography.
Last, but not least Ebrahimi can tell us that her goal with this movie is for young people to see how this propaganda machinery brainwash people, to look beautiful at something that is bloody ugly.
I try to show that behind all the beauty there is an ugly side. In the film we see this beautiful nationalism and ideology, which lasts for generations. But gradually we understand that this is not the truth. I want to show how the ideological manipulation in form of politics and religion can be used to manipulate people to kill one another, for nothing. I wish the young generation can see this. As we see in Europe today, young people leave their homes to become part of fanatical groups, like Isis fx. A propaganda machinery produces a beautiful picture of something that doesn’t exist. I hope that this movie can help young people to understand that.