Land of Dreams, Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari’s eccentric political satire set in a dust-ridden United States where censuses collect dream data, is a profoundly American film – and a profoundly Iranian one. It follows a young woman Simin (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s Sheila Vand), whose work as a low-level bureaucrat is interrupted by an assignment to The Colony – an unsettling military compound populated by Iranian revolutionaries trapped in time. Neshat and Azari’s sophomore project is a film of uninhibited scope and seeming contradiction: an odyssey through the American Dream that probes the emotional legacy of the Iranian revolution and the tense entanglements of power and personal freedom that define both countries.

There is a lot going on – arguably too much – but Land of Dreams’ stylistically audacious dreamscape is less interested in leanness than texture, drawing on a rich aesthetic lexicon that is markedly indebted to Neshat’s work as a visual artist. The alien Americana of the New Mexico outback, filmed with intimidating expansiveness, gives way to and melds with endless photographs of revolutionary martyrs, while Simin’s US government ID inexplicably shows her wearing an Iranian chador. William Moseley – criminally underused since his Narnia days – and American-as-apple-pie Matt Dillon round out the cast, but Vand is the film’s compelling psychological and political centre, embodying Simin’s untethered identity with dry, understated defiance.

As imagined futures are policed and secret interiorities exposed, Neshat and Azari fearlessly illuminate the eerie similarities between the Islamic regime and contemporary America – the increased presence of the surveillance state, the shared exploitation of religion and power – similarities long obfuscated through decades of distracting nationalism. Stubbornly opaque and infinitely rewarding, Land of Dreams is a case study in how the most surreal imaginaries can very often be the most disturbingly real.



CAST: Sheila Vand, Matt Dillon, William Moseley, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Gunn, Christopher McDonald

DIRECTORS: Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari

WRITERS: Shirin Neshat, Jean-Claude Carrière, Shoja Azari

SYNOPSIS: A young Iranian-American woman travels around a near-future United States collecting accounts of dreams for the US Census.