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Review: Coup 53

Filmmaker Taghi Amirani searches for documented proof that MI6 collaborated with the CIA to overthrow Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953.

Framing the narrative is the quest of Iranian documentarian Taghi Amirani to uncover physical evidence of what the British government has been unprepared to officially admit; their involvement in orchestrating the coup to remove Mohammad Mossadegh after he nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.  A cutup transcript of an interview with MI6 agent Norman Derbyshire conducted in 1985 for the Granada TV documentary End of Empire, has Amirani searching for the actual camera footage and instead comes across an intact transcript which contains the damning information he is looking for.  A novel approach is taken with the casting of Ralph Fiennes to recreate the interview and shooting it in the manner of those featured in End of Empire.

Along with the actual historical event, the present-day storyline feels like a John le Carré espionage thriller with legendary editor and sound designer Walter Murch serving as a co-conspirator on the production.  Even though Amirani is candid about his belief that the Americans and British undermined the possibility of having a democratic ally in the Middle East and created a hostile environment for Western nations, he does allow the son of the Shah of Iran who replaced Mossadegh to speak his mind.  Animated footage helps to fill in the visual gaps in particular during the initial coup attempt that failed.  With all of the different elements in play, Murch astutely assembles a narrative that could have easily become unwieldy into something that flows from beginning to end.  Coup 53 effectively demonstrates how the short-sightedness of having foreign policy driven by economics causes damaging long-term consequences for even the perpetrators.

Coup 53 is being distributed Virtually through over 100 sponsoring theaters in Canada, the US, UK, and Ireland. The list of theaters can be found at Proceeds split 50/50 between the theater and the filmmakers.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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