They are youngsters, these protagonists of The Narrow Red Line - seventeen year-olds – old enough to have the will and the strength to indulge in a range of criminal activities, but young enough to have their minds moulded and transformed in the penitentiary for juveniles where they are housed, and to be lifted towards a more hopeful future. The Narrow Red Line by young director Farzad Khoshdast, was one of the eleven Iranian films competing for the Netpac Award at the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran this year. The selection included features, documentaries, docu dramas and one animation. In his docu drama, Khoshdast draws us into the world of the penitentiary to show us the young men incarcerated for crimes such as theft, adultery, kidnapping, assault, buggery and murder, and their confessions. Their problems have a multitude of causes – personal, familial and social. A strong theme with a dash of hope, this psycho drama gives us credible characterisation and creates a true-to-life atmosphere, in yes, a grim context, given the cramped detention centre. His actors are volunteering for the roles of young criminals and they must – through workshops – get acquainted with the world of crime and understand the reasons for their confinement. The workshop, conducted by a drama instructor, is intended to provide these young men with drama therapy that will help them overcome their ordeal, help them face the world and move on. It is a ray of hope. After ups and downs, their play is presented to great acclaim at a festival, and is even invited to Germany. The youngsters step out of their prison for the first time. For many, the therapy has proved positive. Some inmates, if not all, leave prison after serving their sentence, some remain behind, while others continue their education through the performing arts.
Interestingly, their rehearsals are as intense as the film itself. Art, here, acts as a liberating force.