Berlinale: A Dragon Arrives! ( Ejhdeha Vared Mishavad! )

A Dragon Arrives! (Ejhdeha Vared Mishavad!)

Directed by Mani Haghighi
Starring Amir Jadidi, Homayoun Ghanizadeh, Ehsan Goudarzi, Kiana Tajammol, Nader Fallah

by Malin Arvidsson

The year is 1965. A political prisoner hangs himself two months before he’s due to be released. Even though many prisoners kill themselves, it seems suspicious that anyone would do so this close to his release, and what makes it more suspicious is that the Iranian prime minister was shot dead in front of the parliament building the day before. Police inspector Babak Hafizi is sent to investigate and together with a sound engineer and geologist, they discover things out of the ordinary.

The prisoner had been living in an abandoned shipwreck in an old cemetery in what looks like a desert, however a shipwreck managed to end up there. When Babak wants to bury the body, a local warns him that when you bury a body here, the ground will open. Babak decides to ignore the warning and that night there’s a strong earthquake that only hits the cemetery. After some time of investigation, the three disappear without a word. 50 years later, a box is found which contains some of their evidence alongside intelligence tape recordings that proves that they had been arrested and questioned about what had happened.

A Dragon Arrives! is presented as a hybrid of fictional film and mockumentary. The story jumps between scenes of the three main characters being interrogated and recorded onto the discovered tapes, their time in the cemetery and interviews with the people who found the tapes 50 years later who decide to make a film out of it. It feels a bit confusing and sometimes it’s jolting when you’re immersed in the story and all of a sudden you jump to the present time and to pulled out of it again. It sometimes feels like you’re watching a film with the director’s commentary.

At the beginning of the film, there’s a claim that it’s based on a true story. To the question of which part of the story is true, director Mani Haghighi replies; “The way this film works is that it claims to be telling a true story not just from the first caption you see at the beginning of the film, but also when you have well known figures from Iranian culture coming and talking about the characters that we see in the film as if they were real characters. As the film progresses…the story becomes more and more difficult to believe as a true story, the story becomes more and more incredible and weird and magical and the point is for the audience to wonder whether this can really be a true story or not”. He says he wants to leave it to the audience to decide if it’s all true, if it’s all false or if it’s somewhere in between. But he also mentions that he got the idea of the dragon or creature underneath the graveyard from an old newspaper article about a genetically mutated snake that was discovered in the graveyard in the desert in Iran.

He says he finds it curious that people can be so convinced that things are true, which are so obviously not, and he wanted to experiment with this.  “I thought maybe I can tell a story that is obviously impossible to be true and present it in such a way that seems that it is absolutely true.”


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