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Desert Dancer

Based on the true story of self-taught Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian, Richard Raymond's beautifully choreographed drama sketches a story of bravery against the backdrop of the turbulent 2009 presidential election, which saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to power and vociferous protests across Iran. As a boy, Afshin (Reece Ritchie) watches a bootleg copy of Dirty Dancing and becomes intoxicated by the power of dance as a form of self-expression. He is beaten for daring to dance in a nation that represses all forms of artistic self-expression. Unperturbed, Afshin nurtures his passion in secret and when he enrols at the University of Tehran, he encourages best friend Ardavan (Tom Cullen) and a couple of other students to join him in forming an underground dance company. A free spirit called Elaheh (Freida Pinto), whose mother was a famed ballerina, learns about the plan and gatecrashes the company's first meeting. The young men and women practise in secret, aware of the consequences if they are discovered. As election fever in the city reaches a crescendo, Afshin suggests they stage a one-off performance in the desert in strict defiance of the current regime.