In JAII KEH KHODA NIST (Where God Is Not), individuals abused by the Iranian regime testify to what they have suffered. The film seeks to understand the functioning of this totalitarian system in its most repressive dimension, namely imprisonment and torture. Through the staging, through the precision of my characters' gestures, through the spaces they reconstitute, the film triggers a word that only cinema can allow to emerge. It reveals the monstrosity of a regime that tries to crush individuals, that deprives them of freedom, that humiliates and tortures them.
The film then tries to understand what the torturer does: what are his actions, his words, his customs? How can a left-wing activist, under the pressure of a totalitarian regime, capitulate and change sides under the force of a repressive body? How is the struggle possible in spite of this? These questions were left unanswered in my first feature films, produced inside Iran, through which I tried to exchange with the Iranian regime's militiamen and the mullahs. This time I have tried to understand power from another angle, through those who have directly experienced the regime’s violence.
The goal is to demystify these fantasies and irrational fears, transforming them into dangers that can then be defined, circumscribed, prevented, and fought.
This work has helped me to deconstruct my own fantasies about the system, as I hope it will for the public as well. Authoritarian regimes deliberately feed such fantasies through rumours both verbalized and left unspoken, as well as through the existence of hidden places, like torture rooms and isolation cells. There are also mysterious individuals such as informers, torturers, or henchmen, figures recruited by the regime to repress or kill those who challenge it. Finally, there exists the same time an imaginary world of heroes who manage to resist despite everything. But what are the concrete mechanisms that allow them to endure the unavoidable loneliness and pain?
Through each of these fantasies, totalitarian regimes construct a fiction in which they willingly assume the role of indestructible monsters. Filmmakers, writers, artists, philosophers, and researchers in the social sciences have the task of confronting these abstractions, these dangerous fictions, and restoring the real. The goal is to demystify these fantasies and irrational fears, transforming them into dangers that can then be defined, circumscribed, prevented, and fought. I seek to combat these abstractions by reconstructing spaces, imagining torturers, and demonstrating their actions.
Locked in the repressive system and never left alone with his conscience, the torturer fulfills his role without ever analyzing himself.
Of course, it is not only us who fantasize. Oppressors also inhabit their own imagined order. There, locked in their own fictions, they have faith in their omnipotence. In order to ease their conscience, they fantasize about our decadence and the dangers we pose to humanity. But they also know that we no longer consider them to be part of the mankind, to which they sneer maliciously. For from where they stand, their daily actions demonstrate their much-discussed humanity to themselves, to their loved ones, to those on their side.
Locked in the repressive system and never left alone with his conscience, the torturer fulfills his role without ever analyzing himself. The torturer refuses the mirror that we try to hold up to him and avoids listening to his double, that little voice inside him that might say "stop" or prevent him from sleeping at night. I made this film by imagining the torturer watching it, hearing the victims speak with nuance and without Manicheism about his actions, his violence, his inhumanity, about the role in which he is trapped, and about the way he justifies it all to himself. This film, which torturers and defenders of the Iranian regime will undoubtedly see, will then perhaps serve as an occasion for one of them to doubt themselves a little. To believe in it is to offer them this possibility.