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A Man of Integrity 2017

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About A Man of Integrity 💬

A drama about corruption and injustice in society. You are the suppressed, or you have to join the suppressor to survive!

35-year-old Reza (Reza Akhlaghirad), having distanced himself from the urban quagmire, leads a simple life along with his wife and sole child, somewhere in a remote village in Northern Iran. He spends his days working on his goldfish farm. Nearby, a private company with close links to the government and local authorities, has taken control of nearly every aspect of the regional life. Its shareholders, accumulating wealth, power and economic rents, have been pushing local farmers and small owners to dilapidate their belongings, farms and estates, to the benefit of the Company's in the influential network and its monopoly. It is under their pressure that many villagers have themselves become local rings of the larger network of corruption. Meanwhile, Reza strives to resist coercion and preserve his farm. Soon though, he will realize that he can no longer stand up to this powerful, yet the hidden, coercive web of corruption. Giving up, he decides to sell his property and move away. The Company, however, decides to raise the stakes...


I have so far produced up to six films, none of which ever screened in Iran - the land my stories and I belong to. Censorship's jaws have shut all venues. Independent filmmakers, not dependent upon State funds for their production, constantly look for ways to circumvent censorship. To avoid the eyes of the censors and circumvent those crushing jaws, they either submit scenarios whose narratives are confined to the interior of an apartment or choose a location so remote that it practically puts the production out of their sight. However, all this inventiveness often ends up forgoing some of the common tools of cinematography: using small and nonprofessional cameras, renouncing to an operator and advanced lighting techniques, simple narratives... are ways independent cinematographers resort to keep production from additional harassment.

In the underground films I have produced, I have used these stratagems while always trying to keep the narrative structure of the final cut devoid of any visible presence of the censorship's limitations. A MAN OF INTEGRITY's story, however, was such that it made forgoing production means practically impossible. The story was so important to my eyes that it was unthinkable to have the censorship's limitations palpable at first glance in the film's structure. Producing it was not easy. And although its screening has been banned in Iran, I have not renounced obtaining the necessary authorization. Meanwhile, I keep looking for innovative ways to circumvent censorship while avoiding cinematographic limitations in production.


''The people's fear of power causes its identification with that very power [which violates the people's rights].''

This view of the American sociologist, C. Wright Mills, best describes A MAN OF INTEGRITY's central characters embodied by the [fish-farming] couple. A man and a woman who, out of necessity, withdraw into isolation in a remote area, making a living out of fish-farming, only to end up identifying with that same corrupting environment they had chosen to escape.

Social corrupt [and corrupting] structures either crush or turn one into a link of corruption in the chain of corruption. Is there any other choice?


Q: Is any part of this story based on real-life people or situations?

Mohammad Rasoulof: Normally the stories which interest me relate to the environment around me. My characters are based on those around me. In my mind, I can find references to the events and characters in this film too.

I am only looking around me. I tell my stories and within them ask my questions. Many are questions that have remained with me since my childhood. For example, when our history books in school told us that, from hundreds of years ago, kings have ruled people by subjecting them to oppression and injustice, I used to ask myself how is this possible? I think that I am still asking the same questions.

Q: How does the censorship of your work in your home country affect your creative process? Does your relationship with the authorities make it more difficult to find the right collaborators?

Mohammad Rasoulof: It's often been said that encounters with censorship and limitations result in more creativity for the artist. But this is not always true. Eventually, you reach a saturation point and it results in despair for the artist. When the censorship authority does not allow you to connect with your audience, you have to try indirect and subtle ways and you are always working to avoid being depressed by this enforced retreat to the sidelines. On the other hand, when your connection with your audience becomes this limited, gradually your work becomes like a monologue. Then you have to find a cure for this problem too. The same censorship mechanism that has forced you to the sidelines, by painting a manipulated picture of you and your work (which is not available to the public), directs the feelings of the majority of people towards their own ideals. It's a little disheartening - but you do always find some people around you who are seeking the truth. My main crew remains the same and we have, after many years of working together, developed a mutual understanding and respect.

Q: Your main character's relationship with authority is also somewhat paradoxical...

Mohammad Rasoulof: This paradox is the result of the main protagonist's respect for ethics, because the social values of the environment around him find themselves in direct contrast to his moral principles. In such conditions, the social structure, like a giant machine, carries on regardless. If you don't obey the prevalent value system, which itself seems to be totally immoral, you become seen as an outsider and a troublemaker.

Q: Tell us about the corporation in the film.

Mohammad Rasoulof: In our story, ''The Corporation'' is a place where politics, money, and power are intertwined. A place where, due to its social structure, has to influence over the village. It has violated social values and, unhappy from this structure, many of the village inhabitants prefer to affiliate themselves with the ruling system rather than try to bring about reforms and changes in the conditions.

Q: Do the goldfish Reza raises in the film represent something in Iran, symbolically?

Mohammad Rasoulof: The Iranian people, as part of the New Year celebrations, display goldfish as a symbol of vitality and reward. However, by selecting this profession for Reza, I wanted to explain part of his character. Though Reza seems to be a grumpy and sullen character, and there is a steeliness and coldness in his gaze, inside he is a tender soul. He is like a snail who has hidden inside his hard shell.

Q: What about the cave in which Reza finds refuge and escapes the pressure of everyday life?

Mohammad Rasoulof: The solitude Reza chooses shows that he has given up hope of any change taking place. He isolates himself from his surroundings so that if he cannot actually implement change, at least he will not be part of the chain of corruption that has surrounded him. This solitude and loneliness has made him to curl into his shell. Every time he goes to the thermal bath in the cave, he finds some strength that allows him to carry on. Going to the hot water pool is an internal trip for him; somewhere where he meets himself and, by drinking a few glasses of homemade wine, forgets for a moment life's hardships.

Q: How did you develop the dynamics between the married couple of Reza and Hadis?

Mohammad Rasoulof: Hadis' relationship with Reza is a supportive one. She wants to keep her family. Hadis is a powerful woman and it is apparent that she has a motherly behavior, alongside her role as Reza's wife. Due to her job, Hadis also has more social contact with the outside world. She understands her husband's solitude, but she is not a loner like him. So when they reach a dead-end, she easily succumbs to the dominant social values in place. She tries to use her connections and resources in the school where she works to solve Reza's problems. Even when the court ruling is issued, she advises Reza to behave like others to come out of this dead-end - to pay people off and make the necessary compromises. Hadis' situation is one stranded between Reza and the society they live in. She knows that if she is hard headed like Reza, all the doors in their life are going to be closed to them. You could say that Hadis acts as a kind of insulation between Reza and society.

Q: For you, does the system in Iran have any echoes in Western cultures?

Mohammad Rasoulof: Oppressive systems share glaring similarities. For example, it seems that some of the people in Iran today can identify with many of the experiences of Romanian people in Ceausescu's times. Although Romania was suffering from a communist dictatorship, today in Iran the political structure relies on a religious power base. Of course, this is not the whole story. The story of A MAN OF INTEGRITY is more concerned with the structure that such a regime has produced. In this structure, social pressure automatically punishes those who do not toe the line and succumb to the governing social values. If you don't get on board the tank, it will crush you in its path.

Q: For you, does the film's final atmosphere make a definite statement.

Mohammad Rasoulof: I know that anyone who has seen the film will laugh at this statement, but really when I was writing A MAN OF INTEGRITY, I tried my best to tell a hopeful story. After showing all the adversity surrounding the main protagonist, I wanted to suddenly say that, despite all this, life is beautiful and one must try to improve the conditions. Throughout the writing process, I wanted Reza to choose an alternative way but I could not tame his anger with my optimism. So obviously this means I foresee a violent conclusion to the existing social conditions in Iran. I could not use hope as an excuse to ignore reality. On the other hand, I could not ignore the power of individual choice in the face of the social structure. For this reason, the final sequence is very important to me. I was looking for a situation where after Reza's final reaction to The Corporations's representative (Abbas), and the offer from The Corporation, see him devoid of any humanity, as if about to turn to stone. In the final scene, Reza resembling a relic on a fossil, in a helpless condition, naked and still, is holding to a rock. Suddenly he starts trembling. The sound of his quiet crying describes his human shame, this internal shame in Reza for me is a great hope that matches reality.

A Man of Integrity Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Mohammad Rasoulof

Writing Credits

Mohammad Rasoulof


Reza Akhlaghirad

Soudabeh Beizaee

Nasim Adabi

Missagh Zareh

Zeinab Shabani

Zhila Shahi

Mehdi Mehraban

Majid Potki

Bagher Yekta

Sepehr Ebadi

Music by

Peyman Yazdanian

Cinematography by

Ashkan Askani

Genres: Drama, Thriller

Country: Iran

A Man of Integrity Official Trailer

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