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September 23rd, 2004
Red Lines and Deadlines
Introduction

About the Film

Twenty-five years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the struggle for political reform is the big story. With rare access, WIDE ANGLE films behind the scenes with the young reporters of one of Iran’s leading reformist newspapers. Founded less than a year ago and already Iran’s 4th largest daily, the Shargh newspaper (its name means simply East) has quickly built a loyal readership among Iran’s intellectuals, opinion makers, politicians, and the young. Its photography and design borrow from the New Yorker and London’s Independent; its chief economics editor is 23 years old. With such a youthful staff (the average age is 28), with more female journalists than any other paper, and committed to professional journalism and neutral reporting, Shargh is a lightning rod for censorship. Indeed, its own editors evaluate constantly what stories to print without crossing an indefinable line. Authorities have closed the paper down once already, on the eve of the February 20 election, for printing an open letter from reformist MPs to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei criticizing the disqualification of more than 2,000 reformist candidates.

WIDE ANGLE documents three weeks in the life of this remarkable newspaper, following reporters out on stories ranging from Saddam Hussein’s first appearance in court; to a horrific bus collision that exposes Iran’s abysmal road safety record; to the trial of a professor sentenced to death for criticizing the ruling clerics; to the death of Marlon Brando. The story of these daring journalists, who struggle to report the news without incurring the “blade of censorship” they say is an ever-present threat, offers powerful insight into the complexities of today’s Iran.

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