As I snuggled on the couch to watch HBO’s documentary on Neda Agha-Soltan, I knew this wasn’t the time for popcorn. The first images that splashed across the screen were Agha-Soltan’s infamous last moments, which haunted viewers around the world exactly a year ago. The tone of onlookers and loved ones was agonizing, screaming as they crowded around her body, placing their hands over the bullet hole in her chest. As blood began to gush from her mouth and nose, Agha-Soltan’s eyes remained open. It was only a few moments before she died, but the video burned a memory in the hearts of many that will perhaps last for years to come.
The images of Agha-Soltan’s last moments were perhaps the most impressing images of the brutality and violence that unfolded after last year’s Iranian elections. Cell phone cameras and digital cameras became the weapon of choice for many of Iran’s population. They wanted to show the world the injustice they were suffering at the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
HBO’s documentary For Neda delves into the life of Agha-Soltan to answer the questions of who she was, what she stood for, and why she died. The documentary elicits the testimony of Agha-Soltan’s family and recognized names such as Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Dr. Ali Ansari, Professor of Iranian history at University of St. Andrews. The familiar voice of Shohreh Aghdashloo, an Iranian actress, narrates Agha-Soltan’s tale of courage. (Note: the trailer below contains explicit images of her death)
For Neda provides a limited understanding of the socio-political landscape of Iran and elicits only the testimony and experiences of those with a particular angle. The story of Neda Agha-Soltan was used here to paint a particular picture of Iran seen from the eyes of a certain kind of woman–a woman like Agha-Soltan.