A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teamwork and bravery help overcome a scary situation; characters face danger to achieve something they believe in. Though it's treated simplistically, viewers will learn a little about an oppressive government and how it keeps its people under control; there are questions here about how such a government can be stopped or defied, if even elections are rigged.
Positive Role Models
Afshin Ghaffarian faces and overcomes oppression and violence; he finds ways to defy the Iranian government and eventually achieves his victory by fleeing to Paris and living his dream. He helps a friend attempt to overcome her drug abuse.
Violence & Scariness
Characters are beaten by the morality police. Sticks and knives are used. Some blood/bloody wounds shown. Guns shown. Hands bound with plastic zip ties.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two lead characters are clearly smitten with each other, but they never act on the attraction. Brief mentions of "whore" and "kissing."
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A use of "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
YouTube is important to the plot.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The female lead (who's in college) has a heroin habit; she's shown high but not seen taking the drug. The consequences of her habit include an intense detox scene. College students drink vodka. Heroin users in a nightclub. Background cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Desert Dancer is based on the life of Afshin Ghaffarian, who overcame oppression in Iran and lived to fulfill his dream as a dancer. There are scenes of innocent people being beaten and stabbed by the morality police, who use sticks and knives. Guns are shown, and some blood is shown. The main female character has a heroin habit; viewers don't see her using the drug, but she's shown high, and there's an intense detox scene. College students drink vodka, heroin users are shown in a nightclub, and there's some background cigarette smoking. Language includes a use of "s--t." Terms like "whore" and "kissing" are also used, but other than an infatuation between the male and female lead, sexual content isn't really an issue. The movie is serious and full of cliches, but die-hard fans of dance movies will likely be swept away. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Based on Afshin Ghaffarian's true story, DESERT DANCER nonetheless relies on a batch of dance movie cliches, from the "forbidden dance" of Footloose to a hokey onstage denouncement at the climax. Certain plot threads, such as Elaheh's heroin addiction, feel tacked on. And others are dropped, such as the fact that Afshin's best friend, Ardi (Tom Cullen), begins as a painter and suddenly switches to dancing with no explanation.
This serious, heavy movie paints a simplistic good-and-evil picture of Iran, with characters speaking English and adopting a Western viewpoint, and director Richard Raymond, making his feature debut, doesn't seem to have enough story to fill out a full-length movie. All that's left is the dancing, which can be beautiful, except that the camera restlessly roams over the performers, as if it's trying to actually dance rather than capture dance. But dance movie fans are still likely to be swept away by the old, familiar moves.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.