Complete A-Z list

Desert Dancer


Stars: Reese Ritchie, Freida Pinto, Tom Cullen, Nazanin Boniadi, Gabriel Senior, Marama Corlett, Richard David-Caine, Bethan Hanks, Simon Kassianides, Daniel Bass, Akin Gazi

Director: Richard Raymond

Featuring some impressive, not to mention indiarubber dance routines by Ritchie, this is the story of a young Iranian boy, Afshin Ghaffarian, who loved dancing, something forbidden in 2009 Teheran where the narrative begins.

He joins a clandestine arts centre, where the head warns his pupils: 'Girls and boys, sitting in the same room studying arts - that's a sin in their eyes'. 'They', of course, are the oppressive government regime, much given to beating up protesters with hefty batons - but Afshin is not to feel the full weight of their bigoted fury until adulthood.

Forming a secret dance club with a few friends, including Elaheh (Pinto), a heroin addict but brilliantly explosive dancer, Afshin determines to put on a balletic routine with her and another friend in the far-off desert, with a select audience of a handful of rebel sympathisers. 'You danced inside my heart,' Elaheh tells him, 'where no one else can see.' Alas, his troubles are just beginning.

Dance fans will love this film, which also has fine Technicolor cinematography by Carlos Catalan, but interest is only intermittent for the non-balletomane, with individual shots often lingering far too long under the cameras of the debutant director.

The real Afshin, a spectacularly handsome man, makes a rather unnecessarily protracted appearance at the end.

David Quinlan

UK/United Arab Emirates/Morocco/Romania 2014. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Technicolor.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 2, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 Apr 2016