The world’s most successful viral video

Image credit: AP/weareallneda.com

“For Neda” is a powerful documentary about Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman killed after the mass protests in Iran following the disputed election last year. The video of her murder became a catalyst for the Green movement in Iran and inspired people worldwide, making Neda’s image into a symbol of the struggle for democracy.

Because all foreign media is banned in Iran, any journalist seeking the truth behind Neda’s story risked imprisonment or death. Saeed Kamali Dehghan, a print journalist who had worked in Tehran, was enlisted with the dangerous assignment of meeting secretly with Neda’s family. The footage of interviews with Neda’s family forms the heart of a political documentary that is nonetheless a deeply personal portrait of Neda, her life framed by the events leading up to the election and its violent aftermath.

“She was always smiling”

Neda emerges as a passionate woman willing to sacrifice everything to gain democratic freedoms for herself and her country. She was part of a close-knit, supportive family, who loved and respected her views despite the fear they felt whenever she risked angering the religious and government powers.

Neda, who’s name means “voice,” was that courageous, outspoken woman who stood against repression, “clashing with authority almost from the start, a free spirit, confined by a regime that does not value these qualities in a woman.”

“As a woman, you are supposed to be invisible”

The film clearly spells out the gender-specific laws that restrict the lives of women, and how they are targeted by the authorities for any real, or perceived, infraction of the rules. It is easy to understand why women took a leading role in the demonstrations, when we listen to the words of Iranian exiles speak about life in their country.

While we never hear her speak, Neda’s voice resonates throughout the film: a young woman who loved to study Arabic dancing, read banned books and novels, and was idealistic and determined. Like so many others, she wanted to live and love and express herself, to enjoy the basic rights due to all people.

Ultimately, “For Neda” is about more than an election, a movement for reform, or one young woman’s story. It is the story of a society still fighting for freedom.

For Neda airs on HBO on June 14. It is also currently available in Arabic, Farsi, and English from This is for Neda. Although the regime attempted to prevent Iranians from seeing the documentary, the film is nonetheless circulating virally throughout Iran.