'Frontline: Our Man In Tehran'
(Thomas Erdbrink / DVD / NR / 2018 / PBS)
Overview: FRONTLINE presents Thomas Erdbrink's rare and fascinating account in a 4-hour journey into the private world of Iran, revealing the people and the country in a way never before seen on U.S. TV.
DVD Verdict: Since 2001, Thomas Erdbrink has been covering front-page news from inside Iran. Now chief correspondent and Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, he is one of the last Western journalists living in the country.
Over the course of four years beginning in 2014, he was able to get permission to travel with a crew from Dutch television around the country, meeting people and hearing stories about their lives and hopes and fears, in one of the most isolated countries in the world.
FRONTLINE presents Erdbrink's rare and fascinating account in 'Our Man in Tehran' - a four-hour journey into the private world of Iran, revealing the people and the country in a way never before seen on U.S. television.
The series offers surprising encounters inside the closed society of Iran, as Erdbrink gets Iranians to reveal the intricacies of their private worlds and the challenges of living under theocratic leaders.
One such reveal is a Dutch journalist, who was once simply on vacation, meets a local Iranian girl and they marry. He stays in Iran ... for 19 years (so far).
The first part was made while Obama was still president, in 2015. Just about anybody will talk to him - people on the street, a Muslim fanatic, clerics, an alcoholics anonymous group where alcohol is illegal, even a beauty salon operator - so American news agencies tap him often.
Why will they talk to him? Three reasons besides the fact he is personable: First, he is Dutch and not British or American - the documentary points out that Iranians HATE the Americans and the British. Second, he married an Iranian. Third, he chose to stay in Iran, so he is subject to the same laws and hardships as the others.
Knowing his way around, speaking Persian, and with unprecedented filming access, Erdbrink starts his journey with his Iranian friends and family, who are his introduction to the culture.
The film widens out into his daily life as a reporter, watching and listening as Iran goes through a rollercoaster of changes, with a modernizing society increasingly pitted against ideologically conservative Muslim clerics.
Along the way, the series introduces a view of Iranian society that will both surprise and intrigue viewers - inside a 12-step AA meeting in a country where drinking alcohol is banned; following a young woman who decides to challenge the compulsory Islamic headscarf law; experiencing the explosive popularity of Instagram among a new generation of Iranians; or meeting a volunteer soldier who has just come back from multiple tours in Iraq and Syria and talks about martyrdom with his wife and young children nearby.
Behind the personal stories, 'Our Man in Tehran' offers a serious look at whether this important country can open up to the world - and explores how its leaders' harsh rhetoric against America often differs from the beliefs of ordinary Iranians. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.