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  • Lesson plan
  • Grades 9-10

Love Child: Asylum Policy and U.S. Law

Film Clips

Clip 1: Leaving Iran (:25 – 3:50, length 3:25)

The clip begins with Sahand packing (grabbing his phone). It ends when Leila says, “We have to do this for Mani.”
Leila, Sahand, and Mani flee Iran. They fear they’ll be caught and they fear for the safety of family they have left behind, who may be targeted because of the couple’s actions.

Discussion Questions for Clip:

What can you observe about what feelings the family is experiencing? What specifically shows, or communicates, what they are feeling?

Clip 2: Leila’s Story (6:10 – 9:45, length: 3:35 min.)

The clip begins as Leila explains: “I was born…” It ends when Leila explains that Sahand would be executed.
Leila meets with a therapist in Turkey and shares her story. We find out that Leila had a happy childhood, earned a university degree, and worked as a teacher. We also discover that Leila was married to a violently abusive drug addict, applied for and was denied a divorce, had an affair with Sahand, and bore his child.

Note: Though there is nothing graphic, Leila does note that her marriage was never consummated, using phrases like “I remained a girl.”

Discussion Questions for Clip:

Why was Leila denied a divorce? What do you think of the criteria the judge used to issue that denial?

Were you surprised that, as a refugee, Leila was able to see a therapist, or that she permitted the filmmaker to record the session? Why might psychological supports be as important as meeting the physical needs of refugees?

Is the affair evidence of a flawed moral character? Should it be used to deny Leila and Sahand asylum?

Clip 3: Sahand’s Story (19:50 – 21:50, length: 2 min.)

The clip begins in the middle of Sahand’s story when he says he remembers a man being hanged. It ends when he says he felt guilty for being an informer.
With the therapist, Sahand recalls childhood memories of people publicly whipped and stoned for having an extramarital affair. He also shares that when he was a teenager, he participated in a protest and was arrested. Iranian secret police used implied threats of torture, imprisonment, or death to coerce him to become an informant.

Discussion Questions for Clip:

What’s the link between being well-read and feeling uncomfortable being an informant? How has Sahand’s education given him power to understand his situation differently?

What role should Sahand’s work as an informant for Iranian intelligence play in consideration of his application for asylum?

Clip 4: Bad News (53:05 – 55:20, length: 2:15 min.)

The clip begins with Sahand opening the status papers he has received. It ends on a shot of Leila looking down.
Sahand reads aloud the decision in his case. His application to UNHCR for refugee status has been rejected. This is especially devastating because Leila and Mani have been approved. They share the news with Mani, who is upset that they may leave without his father. Sahand tries to comfort his son, saying that, “People who want a better life have to go through hard times and this is our hard time.”

Discussion Questions for Clip:

What did you think of the criteria In order to be eligible for international refugee protection: “the persecution you fear must be for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”?

Clip 5: Meeting with the Lawyer (58:55 – 1:00:35, length: 1:40 min.)

The clip begins with Sahand’s lawyer saying, “They write that you aren’t clear enough.” It ends with the lawyer asking if Sahand can get his divorce certificate on the same day he files for correction. Sahand seeks help from a lawyer to appeal the UNHCR’s denial of his status. It illustrates some of the sometimes absurd bureaucratic hoops that refugees must jump through, like getting proof from Iranian intelligence that Sahand worked with them as a secret informant. Or that Leila and Sahand could get married immediately if his divorce certification didn’t have a typo, and getting it corrected requires a visit to the Iranian consulate. The consulate is Iranian territory and Sahand fears that if he sets foot inside, they could arrest him.

Discussion Questions for Clip:

Are the requirements for official documents fair and reasonable?

Why would being legally married make it more likely that Sahand would get refugee status than simply being able to prove, with DNA, that Mani is his son?

Clip 6: Getting Married (1:01:55 – 1:07:50, length: 6:05 min.)

The clip begins with Leila on the phone saying, “Nothing happened.” It ends with her saying, “Something forbidden we made legal.”
After a tense but successful trip to the Iranian consulate to obtain valid divorce certificates, Sahand and Leila rush to get married in time to send proof of marriage to the UNHCR before it closes Sahand’s case and permanently denies him refugee status. Their attempt is almost thwarted because they don’t have the correct pictures or health documents, but the kindness of a clerk saves them.

Discussion Questions for Clip:

In order to get married in time, the couple is at the mercy of the clerk and her willingness to do them a favor. What do you think about one person having that much power over the lives of others? What circumstances led to her having that much power?

Why do you think getting married was so important to Leila and Sahand? What did it represent to them?

About the authors

Faith Rogow

Faith Rogow, Ph.D., is the co-author of The Teacher's Guide to Media Literacy: Critical Thinking in a Multimedia World (Corwin, 2012) and past president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. She has written discussion guides and lesson plans for more than 250 independent films.