Hitler's Grave, also known as Heaven's Taxi, is a film by Daryush Shokof. The film is about an Iranian girl played by Taies Farzan who leaves Iran in order to fulfill two promises she makes to her dying brother just moments before he dies. Her brother Majid, played by Afshin Akhavan, had been fatally tortured by agents from the Islamic Republic of Iran after being arrested for taking part in the protests against the 2009 Iranian presidential election. The first promise she makes to the brother is that she will go to Berlin, Germany to find Hitler's grave. The second promise is kept a secret from the audience until the last scene of the film in a masterful Hitchcockian style of suspense as Majid whispers the words into his sister's ear just before he dies. The film won best awards for Film and Directorial for Daryush Shokof at the NYIIFVF. The film features well-known German actor Vadim Glowna as a Grand Rabbi.
The hero of the film is a Moslem woman "Atossa", played by Taies Farzan who starts the whole story based on her promises to her brother. Daryush Shokof suggested in an interview after the film that he specifically wanted to show the important role of women in Iranian society and how he admires their courage and honesty. Therefore he wanted to glorify the essence of giving one's word to the woman in a society where such a characteristic has always been a most admirable quality owned by Iranian men and not their women. He also added that it was important for him to have a Moslem woman taking charge and initiate a lovable relationship to a man rather than the other way around which is usually the standard cliche for all macho driven films coming from Iran, where a Moslem man gets the girl regardless of her ethnicity and origin. Another major factor he adds is simply to show how absolutely unimportant the role of a religion should be in our times and in 2011, without any disrespect to any religion and that religions should never play a role in affairs of human beings with one another. With such a pretext, Atossa is from the start the unlikely hero of a society whose women showed great courage and bravery during the uprising against the presidential results in Iran in 2009. Atossa sets forward to seek a goal that is a taboo in the world of Islam, and equally so in the faith of Judaism but continues to go through all the difficulties ahead of her just because she gave her word to her dying brother. However, the story goes far beyond the cliches of wanting to bring these two archfoes closer together in a semi-documentary style of movie making by Daryush Shokof. Atossa arrives in Berlin and starts asking everyone for the address to the grave of "Hitler". She is dressed under an Islamic Veil and is mostly being treated unfairly by everyone she comes across to ask the question. She soon comes to the understanding that she is perhaps in a wrong place, asking the right question from the wrong people at a very wrong timing and being the wrongest person to ask the question at all for she is an Iranian in addition to being a woman under chador. She goes through many unpleasant situations and even gets into physical confrontations with all sorts of people in the society from the foreigners living in Berlin, to home grown Nazis each and every time she asks where the grave is until she finally gets a hint from the least expected person "a prostitute" who tells here where she might be able to find the address and shows her the synagogue building in the city and suggests she ask the Grand Rabbi for the whereabouts of the grave in town. Atossa, meets the Rabbi, played by the German actor Vadim Glowna. The Rabbi takes her to a site and convinces her of the site being the right location to look for the grave. He cleverly indicates to her that if she truly looks for the grave of Hitler, then she might as well assume the whole area and or perhaps the whole Germany to be the grave of Hitler, and that she does not have to look for mysterious answers and assume further speculations to continue with her mission.
Atossa is now overjoyed, convinced, and most happy to have found the answer to her first promise and is positively motivated again to continue her mission in order to deliver the second promise. She arrives at her hotel room to rest a while, turns on the T.V. screen and is shocked to see the shooting death of Neda, the innocent Iranian student during the protests on the streets of Tehran. The horrifying pictures of the final dying moments of Neda takes her by storm. She decidedly and in a daze leaves the hotel and starts a run for freedom alongside the rivers in the city and finally comes to stand on top of the bridge where she is at peace with herself and the world she sees around her. She takes charge and as if deciding to control her own fate from this moment on and start a whole daring, courageous and peaceful new life she commits an act to set herself free from that first rule of clothing that has governed her life style for all her past. Her first step towards her free future is to rid herself from the mandatory Veil around her head. She finally throws the Veil down to the running waters under the bridge and starts a Mona Lisa smile which should also help start a whole new dimension not just for herself but also for all women living in such cultures.
Atossa starts her new life, walks the streets of Berlin in a new mood and sees the forbidden corners of the city as well where naked pictures of women and men are open for public view behind the windows of porno shops and finally enters a disco club. She now drinks shots of Vodka dances impressively and even gets annoyed by some young dancers on the dance floor and is finally rescued and brought back home by the hotel manager who has an eye for her from the first look. The two are to dine later and talk of their mutual interests in things and eventually in each other. However, soon the wonderful dinner date turns bitter as Lars, played by Pierre Kiwitt, proposes to her too early at the dinner table.
The detective "Karlsson" who is commissioned to watch after everything she does from her second day of her arrival in the city is always on their tails until he finally is the witness to a most moving final moments between Atossa and Lars in the last scene of the film. This is also the scene were we find out the hilariously surprising nature about the second promise. The final picture of the film ends gloriously with the Rabbi looking at Atossa and Lars and blessing them from afar.
Daryush Shokof has just made it public in an open-letter to the world press and film festivals that he has refused to submit Hitler's Grave to the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, 2010, in protest to the festival selecting again an Iranian film (this time even an Iranian-German, Co-Production) with which he believes the festival openly insults and undermines the struggle of Iranians for freedom from under the Dictatorial rules of Islamic Republic of Iran. The film was rejected by Cannes Film Festival 2010 where another Iran-France co-production movie by Abbas Kiarostami who Shokof suggests is the Regime,s puppet film director was selected in the competition section of the festival. Daryush Shokof repeatedly condemns all festivals that have so vividly ignored the struggle of Iranians for freedom from under the Islamic Republic rule over Iran which he refers to as being one of the most darkest and backwards and inhumane regimes to have ever governed Iran for over 30 years. During an interview with the German TV channel ARD and with the respected journalist Henryk Broder Shokof compared the Iranian regime and its dangers to be worse than the Adolf Hitler with the reasoning that today we have global Internet systems and the world is connected and watching every move everyone makes. Today no one can hide from the truth and say: we did not know.
To raise awareness for his issues, Daryush Shokof staged a kidnapping. He was missing for around 12 days during which he said he was kidnapped by four Moslem fanatics who asked him not to show both his two recent films Iran Zendan and Hitler's Grave or else he would be dead.
- ARRI Group Germany is now the world sales agent for the film from September 2011.