In an interesting look inside what caused the Iran Hostage Crisis, along with long-term ripple effects with U.S. relations in the Middle East, writer/director Bobak Kalhor pieces together archival footage and current interviews to shine new light on the tumultuous state of Iran. While interesting for any history buff, as well as those with a penchant for geo-political relations, Kalhor’s documentary seems to suffer from limited widespread appeal beyond those specific viewing sects — which may have been intentional .
Starting on January 19th, 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, was cast out of his home country. After abdicating his throne, he spent his remaining life in exile. While shuffling his family from country to country, including Morocco, the U.S., and Mexico, he was suffering from lymphoma. It afflicted him while in power, which many believe affected his ability to rule. Add to that his urge to modernize and pro-Western outlook, this led him to be removed from power in the first place.
However, while bouncing back-and-forth across the globe, his conditioned worsened, and his lack of stability made the chance of treatment difficult to obtain. During his absence from power, Ayatollah Khomeini took power as the nation’s supreme leader, and the Iran hostage crisis in November of 1979. Then-President Jimmy Carter tried to use Pahlavi’s exile to resolve it, which never happened. Instead, a botched military rescue, sanctions, and steadily growing tensions with Iran resulted, all paving the way for our current predicament with the nation. As well as Carter’s upended political career.
Interviews with several of the doctors who treated him at the time all weigh in on Pahlavi’s condition, made worse by constant travel and lack of access to up-to-date medical procedures, eventually resulting in his death in July of 1980. As the film spends time talking to those who posit what may have been different had his condition — and location — been more stable, the film’s standout revelation is how one man’s death can have such a monumental impact on history.
It is necessary, however, to take a step back and focus on the big-picture fallout behind the Shah’s demise. When viewed up-close, the tale of a wealthy exile tied up in diplomatic entanglements might not be enough to engage casual viewers, and Kalhor’s voice-over isn’t quite compelling to sell his subject matter to that specific audience demographic. Those who tend to pick-apart history, however, will be enthralled with poignant political autopsy.
A Dying King is currently playing in limited release. You can see if it’s playing near you by checking out their website here.