Hug, Directed by Teymour Ghaderi
Hug is a short film out of Iran about a day in the life of a soldier. His brother is coming to town to visit, and in order to pick him up from the airport the soldier (played by Omid Barjaste) will need to request a furlough from his superior. He talks to his brother over a payphone where he’s stationed. They have an easy, conversational relationship. They make jokes, laugh, and look forward to seeing each other. His superior grants him the furlough, but under one condition: He must complete a mysterious assignment. If he does it well, he can spend a day with his brother. He readies himself by cleaning his clothes, hanging them to dry, and shaving his stubble. He washes the clothes without incident, but he cuts himself shaving, an ominous symbol of what is to come.
The price of furlough is much steeper than he could have imagined. A superior leads him to an outdoor scaffold on the grounds of the base where a man hangs, dead. It turns out that the special assignment that he has been ordered to complete requires him to handle the body of this man, condemned to die by the same authorities that granted his furlough. He heaves the body from the dangling rope — effectively hugging him, were he alive — and, with difficulty, lays it on the ground to be zipped into a black body bag. The difficulty of the task is more than physical.
When it’s all over, he washes himself over and over, trying to cleanse his hands and his body. But it’s impossible, because there is nothing physical to wash off. It’s a burden within. He stares at his reflection in the washroom mirror. His bleak duties as a soldier contrast sharply with his hopeful enthusiasm for seeing his brother outside the base, but they are interconnected. Though he never expected to have to do this, he does it because he wants to get out. In a dark irony, the promise of freedom — however brief — requires the most miserable of tasks. The oppressive architecture of the base, the dark and dank nature of the place, and the soldier’s relationships with his superiors are nothing like his tangible brotherly love. The two worlds could not be more distinct, but he inhabits both.
The cinematography paints the darkness of the soldier’s surroundings and the terrible things that happen there, but it also finds beauty even in this unhappy place. The austere environment makes the story more shocking, and more disturbing. Precise music, sound, and film editing frame the mood to invoke horror and a deep sorrow. Director Teymour Ghaderi focusses on the physical details of this space which as a whole appears miserable — but which nevertheless also holds peaceful moments, even joy. The characters crave human connection in a place of disconnection. A soldier needs a hug from his brother.
The film is very good, and very dark. The irony of disconnection points to the burden of life on the inside, and the difficulty of translating it. ■
Runtime: 8 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Short
This film was selected for the 2016 Atlas Awards Official Selection.
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Hug is a film by Iranian filmmaker Teymour Ghaderi. Ghaderi’s other films include the shorts It Hit Upon the Roof and Pomegranate Is the Fruit of Paradise, both of which have received international accolades.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: Omid Barjaste as an Iranian soldier in ‘Hug’. Teymour Ghaderi.