Festival Review: A Dragon Arrives! (2016)

A Dragon Arrives

A multilayered blast of mysterious occurrences in the desert, Mani Haghighi’s A Dragon Arrives! is an enjoyable bafflement.

Last Days In The Desert

by Mark Wilshin

A Dragon Arrives!

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Censorship is a wonderful thing. Well, not really. But at least it forces more imaginative ways of storytelling. Which is exactly what we have in Mani Haghighi’s multilayered A Dragon Arrives!. Visually stunning with its desert shipwreck on the island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf and with its 1960s aesthetic – all paisley shirts and an orange Chevrolet Impala, Haghighi’s film follows detective Babak (Amir Jadidi) as he investigates the suicide of an exiled political prisoner following the assassination of the Shah. Returning with sound recordist Keyvan (Ehsan Goodarzi) and geologist Behnam (Homayoun Ghanizadeh), A Dragon Arrives! uncovers their investigations – drawing us into a baffling world of diary entries from the future – handwritten on the wooden boat’s hull, a dragon lurking beneath a disused cemetery and causing earthquakes each time someone is buried, an orphaned baby Valieh as well as arrest and interviews by SAVAK, Iran’s secret police. Based on real events, A Dragon Arrives! also features talking head interviews with the director, explaining how he discovered and structured his source material, as well as the SAVAK interviewer, Keyvan’s ex-wife and Valieh now grown up, allowing Haghighi to piece together the story of the three men’s disappearance. Punchy, poetic and frankly puzzling, A Dragon Arrives! is a dazzling and original discovery of innocent men caught up in unknown forces beyond their grasp.

A Dragon Arrives! is now showing at the 66th Berlin Film Festival

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