Growing up in Iran, says Nahid Persson Sarvestani, "We had a King and a Queen." Coming from a poor family - her father was ill and her mother weaved carpets to feed the family - Nahid was captivated by the fairytale Queen Farah. But as she grew older, Nahid heard tales of torture under the Shah's regime, and she joined the revolution that eventually sent the monarchy into exile. Now living in Sweden, Nahid has many unanswered questions about that time, and decides to make a film about Queen Farah, who lives in exile in France. After a series of calls, Farah calls Nahid personally to agree to do the film.
Nahid travels from Sweden to Paris, where Farah has been living for nearly three decades. When the two meet in Farah's apartment, Nahid asks how she'd like to be addressed; Farah replies that people usually call her "Your Majesty." Formalities aside, Farah describes her last days in Iran as a very difficult time. In contrast, Nahid says that after the Shah left the country in 1979, she celebrated in the street. But the promise of secular democracy soon disappeared under Ayatollah Khomeini's rule. Anyone who questioned him was silenced, and then mass executions began. Nahid's brother was hanged when he was 17 years old.
During a walk in the park, the two women discuss how much of Farah's daily life Nahid can film. Farah has a hairdresser appointment the next day, but won't let Nahid come; instead, Nahid can join her on a visit to the cemetery. That night, Nahid calls and asks again about the hairdresser, but Farah refuses. The next day at the cemetery, Nahid learns that Farah's secretary found out about Nahid's leftist past. Later, Farah says she wants to stop filming.
Six months later, Nahid sends Farah some footage to show she is not going to shed Farah in a bad light. After viewing the trailer, Farah invites Nahid back to Paris. Curious now, Farah asks Nahid about herself. Nahid says when she was 17, she handed out leaflets alerting people to meetings and demonstrations. Then, after the movement against Khomeini began, Nahid's two brothers were taken away. Farah says what has happened in their country is painful: "Regimes change, but not to something better."
Eventually, Nahid asks Farah about how she met the Shah. Farah replies that when he walked into the room the first time she met him, "My heart started beating." In the years after she and the Shah fled Iran, the couple went to Egypt, Morocco, the Bahamas and Mexico, where the Shah's health deteriorated. They were allowed to come to the U.S. for cancer treatment in New York; after protests outside the hospital, they left for a hospital in Texas (which Farah soon realized was a mental hospital), then to Panama and back to Egypt. Later, Nahid says Farah's story reminds her of her uncertainty after leaving Iran. She and her infant daughter were smuggled into Dubai, and were given permission to stay for only two weeks. After two years of living in hiding, she and her family went to Sweden.
Farah now spends her days responding to letters and emails, and some requests for help. She replies to one letter with a phone call; the man on the line sounds overjoyed that she called him personally. Later, Nahid suspects that Farah's charms are making her vulnerable, and that she is finding it difficult to ask tough questions about her husband. She travels with Farah to Egypt, where Farah goes every year on the anniversary of the Shah's death. After catching wind of a press interview Nahid gave prior to her trip, Farah's secretary again threatens to shut down filming. Nahid shows them footage, and is relieved when Farah decides to continue. Nahid visits the Shah's grave with Farah, who cries and kisses his tombstone. After an emotional day, the two women end up visiting the pyramids.
Nahid admits that the more time she spends with Farah, the more she likes her. Finally, Nahid is confident enough to ask Farah about the executions and lack of freedoms under her husband. Farah says there were things that could have been improved, and insists she wants a better future for Iran. Nahid thinks it is not so simple, and tells Farah an emotional story of her childhood, particularly how she used to compare her life to the images she saw of Farah's daughters on TV. Nahid admits that through the course of filming, her feelings towards Queen Farah have changed. Farah agrees, saying that she was worried about the project, but now can't wait to see how the film turns out. In the end, Nahid concludes that despite their differences, both women share a profound longing for the Iran they both loved, with each hoping to touch its soil again.
Credits: Directed and Produced by Nahid Persson Sarvestani; Edited by Zinat S. Lloyd; Cinematographer: Nicklas Karpaty and MEB; Written by Zinat S and DeeJaye. Lloyd and Nahid Persson Sarvestani; Sound by Rostam Persson, William Kaplan and Arvid Lind; Music by Mirage.
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