It is understandable that Channel 4 chose the title Nazanin for their documentary about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. But really it was a film about her husband, Richard, and his six-year fight to bring her home.
Film-maker Darius Bazargan followed Richard through hunger strikes and dealings with the British government. “With respect, you’re my fifth Foreign Secretary,” he said, politely but wearily, when approached by Jeremy Hunt with assurances that yes, of course, the government was doing everything it could to help.
Bazargan was also there to capture the intimate moments, including the relationship between Richard and the couple’s daughter, Gabriella. Separated from her mother at the airport in Tehran, when Nazanin was detained and accused of spying, she spent three years living with her grandparents in Iran. When she returned to the UK, she could no longer speak English and at the beginning would tell Richard: “I don’t want you, Daddy. I want Granny, I want Mummy. Not Daddy.”
Richard dealt with this in the way that he has dealt with the whole affair: with seemingly limitless reserves of love and patience and endeavoured to make things as normal as possible for her. It was reassuring to see Gabriella sometimes engrossed in Minecraft when Nazanin called from prison.
The film captured many of these calls. At times, Nazanin spoke with rage and despair. “I might as well just go and die,” she said at one point. “It’ll be ok,” counselled Richard. “You’ve told me that for five years.” “I promise you it will.” The emotional toll on both of them was clear. As a viewer, you may have shared some of that fury, such as when British police officers guarding the Iranian embassy in London tried to prevent Richard from handing in a petition, because the Iranians did not want him standing on their steps.
The political background to this – Iran holding Nazanin hostage to secure the payment of a British government debt – was set out. But the film focused on the personal cost. Through calls and letters, Nazanin’s love for her daughter shone through. The final scenes of the pair reunited were very moving.