Desert Dancer (2014) Script

My name is Afshin Ghaffarian.

I am a citizen of Iran.

And I'm a dancer.

Afshin! Afshin!

Afshin! Afshin! Afshin!

Afshin! Afshin!

Afshin! Af...

Afshin, give me your hand.

Give me your hand.

Afshin, what did you do?

I danced in class.

The teacher hit me.

You see those men over there?

They are the Basij, the morality police.

If they catch you dancing, they will do worse than this.

But why?

Because they say dancing is forbidden.

So if you're going to do it, you do it somewhere safe.

They are afraid of no one, Afshin.

And if they ever come for you, you run.

Afshin Ghaffarian.


Sit down.


You like dancing?

Have you ever heard of the Saba?

It's an art center, here in Mashhad.

It's not like any other normal school.

It's a very well-kept secret.

I think you'll like it there.

It's run by a charming man.

Tomorrow, 4:00.

Be there.

Today, I want you... Afshin!

Welcome to the Saba.

Please, do come in.

Take a seat.

Here, you call me Mehdi.

There are things you need to understand, Afshin.

Our country is like

two parallel worlds running alongside each other.

There is the one you see outside, and there's this one, this world, behind closed doors.

Outside there are laws, commandments and sin.

In here, we are free.


Here's your Saba membership card.

You've got a lot to learn.

But that's a great thing.

All right, everybody, concentrate. I want you all to listen to this piece of music, carefully.

It's from a faraway land.

Written by an incredible artist.

It's about life, about passion, creation.

Let it speak to you. Let it stir the emotions in your heart.


You don't understand.

I coulda had class.

I coulda been a contender.

Mehdi, why do they hate us?

Girls and boys sitting in the same room, studying the arts, that's a sin in their eyes.

Will they be back? Oh, yes.

So, what do we do?

Get new windows.

That, Afshin, is Rudolf Nureyev.

He was Russian.

He fled to Paris because they were trying to imprison him.

It reminds me of Rumi's poem.

"In your light, I learned how to love."

"In your beauty,."

"I found poetry."

"You dance inside my heart,"

"where no one else can see you."

Watch it some more.

I'll be back.

Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mousavi! Mousavi!

Rallies are taking place all over Iran for the upcoming elections.

The main challenger to the current president, Ahmadinejad, is Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Ringing across the streets of Tehran.

Okay. Nice to see some new faces.

It's a shame.

I thought it was pretty good.


Yeah. It's always the same, you know, I put it up, they tear it down. I paint it on the wall, and they, uh, cover it up.

Uh, expression repression.

It's our little game.

But I've got plenty more paint.

Uh, I'm Afshin.


Sorry. It's okay. It's fine.

It's your second day, huh? First year. -Yeah.

Where are you from? Tehran?

No, I'm from Mashhad.


What? -Wow, you're a long way from home, huh?


Well, uh, you're gonna need to know some ground rules.

Like what?

Well, even in university, you have to be careful.

Look. You see?

Student Basij. Basij?

Here? Yeah, look.

What is he doing? Is he confiscating her book?

It must be illegal.

But we have to make a stand.

You stay here. Stay. What?

Stay here. Ar... Ardi, wait. No, Ardi.

Hey! What the hell are you doing?

Ardi! -Hey, man. How are you? Sorry I'm late.

Thanks for waiting. Hey, I want you to meet my new friend.

Afshin! Afshin, come here.

Afshin, this is my friend Mehran.

Hi. Yeah, this is Afshin, Mona.

Hi. Mona, Afshin.

I hope he hasn't corrupted you yet.

Give him time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very funny.

Actually, what time is it?

Come on. We're gonna be late.

Hey, so, are you coming tonight?

Yeah. Actually, Mashdi, you're coming, too.

Meet us here, outside the gates, 10:00.

Okay? Bye.

Come on, let's go.

So, nice to meet you.

Yeah, you, too. See you later.

This traffic is crazy.

So I keep on seeing Mehran in my drama class, but he doesn't look like someone who studies drama.

So I find out his big secret, okay, and it turns out that he is an engineering student who keeps on sneaking into my class.

I mean, that's pretty cool. That's not exactly true.

That is exactly true.

Where are we going?

Hey, guys.

Afshin, welcome to the Ayatollah's worst nightmare.

That's her boyfriend. Naser.

He's a... Actually, he's a student director.

He's taking a theater trip to Paris next year.

Lucky bastard's getting out.

What are they smoking?


The regime is, um...

They're flooding the streets with the shit, you know?

They want... They want to numb us.

Okay, come on, let's forget them.

Let's go have some fun, eh? Let's party. Come on.

Cyrus. How are you? Good to see you.

Ah, Beluga Vodka.

Oh, fancy. You guys want a drink?

Wait, you can get YouTube?

What about the firewall?

Proxy server.

Here, Afshin. I think you'll like this.

Broadcast in stealth from Washington, D.C., this is the unofficial, true voice of the Persian Youth.

Pretty cool, huh?

The voice, the regime doesn't want you to hear.

Hey, guys.

Come on. Food's ready.

Yeah, all right. We're coming now.

Do you mind if I...

No, man. Knock yourself out.

Come on!

All right!


You watch too much YouTube, my friend.

He's good, huh?

Hey, Afshin.

Show me that, man. I've always... I've always wanted to do that.

Which one?

That was it, the moonwalk.

The moonwalk? Yeah.

So, show me how? Okay. So, you weight this leg.

Yeah. Then, switch.

And then push back. Switch.

Okay, switch. You're going to spoil your appetite.

Hey, guys. Time to eat. Come on.

Time to eat.

Afshin, come get some food.

You know, guys, I've been thinking.

I want to start a dance group.


I want to start a dance group. Yeah.

Start one in the canteen.

Dance on the tables...

Look, Mehran, I'm serious. ...with the professors.

Who are you... Who are you gonna find to be in a dance group?

Look, it's illegal, right?

Dance is illegal. -It's not illegal, technically.

It's forbidden. Yeah, okay, forbidden.

But totally forbidden.

Come on, Naser. So's vodka.

Wait, so you want us to start a dance group?

No, I want us to take control of our lives.

You know, have somewhere that's ours, where we can create.

"Somewhere that's ours."

Yeah, with no rules.

No rules, huh?

I'd love to dance.

Mona. What?

You guys are crazy.

So, how would we do it?

Well, we'd have to keep it a secret.

Who's going to teach us? YouTube.

YouTube? Cyrus is right. You are crazy.

Just because you can't dance. Look, this isn't a joke, Mona.

You get caught dancing, you go to prison.

You know what happened to my friend.

Just a few months in Evin, and his hair was white.

We hear you, Naser.

Yeah, come on, Naser, no one wants that.

You know, when I dance, I feel free.

You know, it's like no one can take that away.

It's... It's limitless.

So you really want this?

I do.

Mehran, what do you think?

It's different.

An underground dance company.

No, I think it's a great idea.

We need somewhere to rehearse.

There's nowhere in the university.

What about your cousin?

She owns that old building, right?

The printing factory? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That's empty. Maybe there's somewhere there.

No one would know.

Except the Basij. -In a disused printing factory?

Tell her, it's for extra studies.

Yeah, just say it's for theater studies, something like that.

We just need one quiet room.

Something out of sight.

It's perfect.


Yeah, no, of course, of course. As long as it's safe.

Let's start tomorrow.

Are we sure it's going to be secure? Is it going to be safe?

What if we're found out? We'll be fine.

I'm more worried about cleaning that room.

We'll travel separately. Hide the key outside.

It just feels like it should be harder somehow.

It will be. You've seen Ardi dance.


I'm amazing.

Okay, ready? Yeah.

Let's go.

Ardi, come on, set the curve.

Okay, so there are some movements that I think you should try.

Um, what do you think?


Yeah, okay. So, um...

You start with the leg.

Are we going to be doing it like...

So, this is the dance group.

How did you... -If you want to be smart, maybe the last one should take the key with them.


I overheard you.

No one else knows.

If anybody else had, I wouldn't have come.

So, can I audition?

Have we met before?


I'm Elaheh.

Guys, who is this girl?




Okay, sure.

Okay. Let's start.

Hey. Hey.

So, uh, what do you think?

You have commitment.

But you need to work on technique.

A lot.

Without that, you have nothing.

Who taught you?

My mother.

Before the revolution, she was in the Iranian National Ballet.

In Tehran?

Of course.

Back then, they were the stars of their day.

Even Nureyev and Fonteyn came and taught them Le Corsaire.

Wait. Rudolf Nureyev was here?

Doesn't seem real, does it?

Tell me more.

There were about 50 dancers.

Mainly from Iran and Europe.

Some Americans.

Then dance became the great big sin, and it all came to an end.


See you tomorrow.

You know, there's this video I found online.

It's, uh... It's about Fosse.

It's, uh... It's interesting. I thought maybe we should watch it together.

Afshin, are you asking me out?

I don't know. What... What if you said no?

Can you cook?

Uh, I make Ghormeh sabzi. It's pretty good.

Says who? - Maman.

Hey. Hey.

How's it going?

My TV's down.

It's the election debate. Everyone's watching.

Mousavi's on.

He's promising to disband the morality police.

Man, I am telling you, the president is history.

As the race for Iran's presidential election heats up...


How's Maman? -Is that why you think I'm here?

I don't know why you're here.

It's been a while, brother.

I feel like you've been avoiding me.

Sorry. -It's okay. You have to work hard.

Are you making friends?

I keep my head down.


Okay, you got me. I admit it.

I've come to ask for a favor.

People are making trouble at the elections.

Enemies of our president.

This university is full of them.

The Basij needs eyes on the inside.

Will you help me, brother?

My exams are in two months.

I can't.

I have to focus. I'm sorry.

My brother, the engineer.

It's okay. I respect that.

Enjoy the food.

Hey, guys!

Hey. Stay here.

The rally is starting. Everyone... Everyone's here.

What? Come over, show a little support.

Yeah, it's not going to change anything.

That's where you're wrong.

Come on.

Good. Come on.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi!

How are the rehearsals going?

Uh, yeah, they're going okay.

It's a little hard for everyone to concentrate with the elections going on.

Yeah. Well, you'll be going to Paris, a freer man.


Salaam. Salaam. How are you?


You have come from the rally, yes?

Look, we're just on our way home.

Do you plan on voting for Mousavi?


That makes you a non-believer.

We're going home.

So you are married?

How long has it been?

Please don't. -I'm not talking to you.

Do you kiss her?

Tell me, how does she taste?

Hey. No, whoa, whoa, whoa. Whoa.

Look, we'll go. We'll go.

No. You will stay.

You look so innocent.

How much does a whore like you charge, huh?

Tell me, is she worth it?


Naser! Naser!

Naser! No!

Guys, guys...

Naser? Naser!

How is he?

He's going to be okay.

He just got out of surgery, and they say he's going to be okay.

What did you do?

What did we do?

What did we do? What did they do?

But why would they do this?

Because they're animals, Mehran.

We need to be more careful.

We are careful.

Mmm, you have it.

Just let it go.

Try not to think about what happened.


Elaheh, come with me. No.

Elaheh, come with me.

Elaheh. No!

Look, it's okay. I'm her friend, so...

I'm her friend, too.

Naser's fine, by the way.

You know you're the best dancer in the group.

Nothing changes that.

But you can't dance if you're on heroin.

What are you, the morality police?

I don't care if it's right or wrong.

All I care about is the group.

What's the point?

We both know this isn't going anywhere.

That's not true. Then where is it going?

Tell me, Afshin.

What's the big plan?

This isn't enough.

We should perform, to an audience.

Look, it's one thing for us to practice in here, but what's the point?

You know, why dance if no one can see us?

Because it's safe in here.

Who'd want to see us?

Anyone who wants to come.

We'll find an audience.

Anyone who wants to be arrested.

All right, all right.

So where would we put on a performance?

There's nowhere. We can't.

Why not? It's too dangerous.

What about somewhere out of the city?


When I first left my family and came to Tehran, I drove through the desert.

Look. See?

We can dance in the desert.

Where there's no regime.

Where no one can find us.


You're absolutely right.

You okay?

Yeah. I'm fine.

Don't worry about your technique.

You don't have to think about it.

Of course I do. I mean, you taught me that.

Afshin, you can spend your whole life trying to perfect your technique, but you only make a difference when you find your own secret language.

That's when you start communicating.


Dance can be anything.

Just waving goodbye or kneeling down to pray.

Or raising your fist in the air because you believe in something.

You taught me that.

Uh, come in.


You made this?


I'm sorry.

They closed the Ballet after the revolution.

Dance was my mother's life.

You know, she was part of the company for 10 years.

This was her oxygen.

She couldn't breathe without it.

And just like that, she had to stop.

The only way she could keep going was to...

Was to teach me.

At home.

Behind closed curtains.

Oh, she was very hard.

Very hard. She pushed me all the way.

But it wasn't enough for her.

I mean, I wasn't enough for her.

So she got high.

I just thought she was tired.

I thought she was disappointed.

But I didn't want that.

I wanted to be like her.

So I carried on and I...

And I taught myself on the days she wouldn't.

Do you know, she...

She always told me that it was her dream to see me dance on a stage.

Again and again.

Even when she could hardly speak.

Then when I was 13... she took too much.

After her funeral, I went through her things and I... And I found her wraps.

It stopped the pain.

It still stops the pain.

I don't want to be awake.

We'll do this together.


Afshin Ghaffarian.

Back from the dead.

How's things?

So, Cyrus, he told us about her.

Yeah, well, she's clean now, so...

I don't care.

Ardi, don't lose sight of why we're doing this.

Don't you dare tell me that.

We haven't seen you for weeks. Have you been to see Naser?

Afshin, you've forgotten who your friends are.

The last time we saw you, you had this great idea, and we believed in you.

Don't make this about her.

I am here today to talk to you about something very important for our country.

Thirty years ago, this country was in chaos.

A corrupt leader.

A government oblivious to the needs of its people.

Then the revolution came.

The whole country rose up.

And we were one.

And we changed history.

You were right what you said.

But the fight goes on. I'm sorry.

And now our enemy comes from within.

In these elections... -Let's get out of here, shall we?

There are people who want to divide us...

Hey, come on.

Weaken us.

This is what we fight against.

Okay, so we only ask people that we trust?

Who do we trust?

That's up to us.

Wow, this is where things get really dangerous, isn't it?

Do you realize what will happen if we get caught doing this?

Of course we do, Mona. Really?

Because if you did, you'd be scared.

And I don't hear any fear in your voice.

We're all scared.

We talked about this. Yes, but doing this in here is one thing, putting on a performance out there is... She's backing out.

Shut up.

You're too high to have any idea what's going on.

No, you don't know anything about me.

This isn't about you! Don't talk to me like that.

Look, do you...

Do you have any idea what she's been through the last three weeks? Ardi.

What it means for her to be in this room...

Guys, can we just...

Look, let's just start the rehearsal.


Look what they did to Naser.

It's going to be worse for us.

We can't do this.

I can't.

I'm sorry. I have to go. Please, Mona.


Mona, please.

Please don't.

This is a big deal for her.

Ardi, enough. Enough.

Enough. What did I say?

What's wrong with you? I was just being honest.

You did say something. I was just being honest.

Come on, let's start.

What? Let's start the rehearsal.

We started this because we wanted to take control, you know, feel free.

Now look at us.

The regime, you know, the Basij, they're strangling us.

And we're suffocating.

You know, we can go out to the desert.

We can feel what it's like to breathe.

You know, just for a few hours. Just for a moment even.

That's all I want.

And that's what the story is about.

Those people...

They are your friends?


They look like trouble.

I thought I'd come and help you with your coursework.


I'm no engineer, but, uh...

I'm pretty sure this isn't how you build a bridge.


We've got 20 people signed up to come.

That's 20 people outside this room that know.

So, this is how we keep it safe.

Only I will know the exact location of the dance.

Ardi, when you pick up the audience, I'll tell you where it is an hour into your drive south on the freeway.

This is ours.

If we stop, if we hide, if we change...

They win.

It's just up over there.

Where are we, about a hundred kilometers south of Tehran?

Yeah. Think it's far enough away?

Should be.

Get in.

Let's do it.

Okay, let's go.

You shouldn't be so nervous.

It's going to be great.

Of course. Hey...






Afshin, please.



Guys, sit down. Sit down.

I promise you it's worth it.

I promise. I hope you like the show.

These have been amazing times in Iran.

The government has just announced that.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been reelected with 62.6% of the vote.

The challenger, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, got 33.7%.

That seems strange.

In fact, it is my own sense that the vote appears to have been rigged.

Mousavi had been drawing huge crowds, generating greater and greater enthusiasm, and getting bolder and bolder in his criticism of Ahmadinejad and the regime.

Where is our vote?

Where is our vote? Where is our vote? Where is our vote?

Where is our vote? Where is our vote?

Where is our vote? Where is our vote?

Where is our vote?

Where is our vote? Where is our vote? Where is our vote?

Where is our vote? Where is our vote? Where is our vote?

Where is our vote?

What happened?

Uh, I'm going home.

My family wants me back.

Hey, who did this to you?

My brother is Basij.

He wanted me to betray you.

But I couldn't.

We were free in the desert, just for that moment.

I couldn't destroy that.

And I'll always have it.

Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mousavi! Mousavi!

Mir-Hossein! Ya Hossein!

Mir-Hossein! Ya Hossein!

Mir-Hossein! Ya Hossein!

Mir-Hossein! Ya Hossein!

Ya Hossein! Mir-Hossein!

Ya Hossein! Mir-Hossein! Ya Hossein! Mir-Hossein!

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

Afshin! Afshin!

Afshin! Ardi!


Hey! Hey!


I did nothing!

I'm sorry! -You want to know where your vote is, huh?

I'm sorry!

Here is your vote.

Get me their wallets.

The Saba Art Center.

Who is Afshin Ghaffarian?

Afshin Ghaffarian.

If Afshin Ghaffarian does not make himself known, we will go to Mashhad and find his family.

I'm Afshin.

So you are an artist.

Beat him... artistically.

Get him up.

Our Islamic Republic is a shining sun, and you threw dust towards the sun.

But the dust will now return to your eyes.

Hey! Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!


Stay here with these!

We will find you, Afshin Ghaffarian!

You are a dead man!


What are you gonna do?

By tomorrow, there will be checkpoints on every corner.

Lie low.

For how long?

As long as it takes.

Afshin, if they know your name, they will find you.

I know, Naser!


You can't sleep, either, huh?

Oh, I, uh...

Haven't really been able to sleep since the attack.

I keep getting these nightmares.

If their plan was to scare the shit out of me, it worked.

Hey, Mona told me about the dance.

I'm really glad you did it.


And it's good you're acting again, too.

I don't want to go, Afshin.

To Paris.

I can't leave Mona. Not now.

Not while this is happening.

I love her.

You could go.


Take my part in the play.

You're the director, Naser.

They'd never let me go instead of you.

No, I mean, you go as me.

My passport can be fixed.

Afshin, you can't stay here, they'll kill you.

You're not thinking straight. Look, I mean it, Afshin. Go.

And don't come back.

There's just no way.

You know, I can't.

Why, Afshin?

Why can't you go?

You're a beautiful dancer, you know that?

Don't ever give it up.

Don't let anyone stop you.

Not even me.

Go to Paris, Afshin.

For both of us.

You know, when I first saw a piece of ballet...

I didn't understand it. You know, I couldn't see how it worked.

Then a friend of mine told me a line from a poem.

It was by Rumi.

"In your light, I learned how to love."

"In your beauty, I found poetry."

"You danced inside my heart,"

"where no one else can see you."

Just go.

What was the name of that play again?

Uh, The Tempest.

And you're sure this can work?

Uh, yeah. Yeah, I'm sure.

And I've already spoken to the other actors.

They're coming over tonight.

How come?


Afshin's taking Naser's place in Paris.

He's leaving.

I was just, uh, coming around to get some stuff for the...

Stuff for the rally.


You know, I know you've got to go.

See you around, Afshin.

Hey. - Salaam.

- Salaam. - Salaam.

You have your passport?


Your ticket.

While you're on this trip, you are representing The Islamic Republic of Iran. You understand?

Of course. We all do.


Babysitters from the Ministry of Culture.

Don't mind them... Naser.

Naser Javadi.

Where are you going?

To Paris.

What is the purpose of your trip?

It's a theater festival, um, arranged by the university.

You're a drama student?

Yeah, I'm the student director.

What is your date of birth?

Uh, the 23rd of August, 1985.

Yeah. Okay.

Drink water, not a drop before.

Therefore, drink to me.

Yes? Yes, and then, "They say... They say there's five upon this isle, "we are three of them." Servant-monster, drink to me.

The folly...

The folly of this island...




Ah, it's you.

What are you doing here?

I live here.

Why? I mean, what happened?

They shut down the Saba. Life wasn't the same for me.

It was better for me to leave.

Besides, where did Nureyev go when he fled Russia?

Yeah, Paris.



I'm in a lot of trouble.

Drink, servant-monster, when I bid thee.

Thy eyes are almost in thy head.

Where should they be set else?

He were a brave monster indeed, if they were set in his tail.

My man-monster hath drowned his tongue in sack.

For my part, the sea cannot drown me.

I swam, ere I could recover the shore, five-and-thirty leagues...

Off and on.

By this light, thou shalt be my lieutenant, monster, or my standard.

Uh, your lieutenant, if you list.

He's no standard.

We'll not run...

Monster, I say speak.

My name is Afshin Ghaffarian.

I'm a citizen of Iran.

I'm a dancer, and my government won't let its people be free.

In my country, even dance is forbidden.

I want my rights.

I want my freedom.

Thou liest, most ignorant mon...

My name is Afshin Ghaffarian!


Afshin, dance can be anything, even raising your fist in the air because you believe in something.

My name is Afshin Ghaffarian, and I'm a...

I'm a dancer.

But my government won't let its people be...





Please, please, please.

Shut it down.

You are dead.