A True Story (Yek Dastan-e Vaghe’i)

Director: Abolfazl Jalili

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


A riveting, personal film by one of Iran’s most esteemed directors, A True Story marks a return by Abolfazl Jalili to his documentary origins. Spurred by a forceful idealism, the filmmaker explores a familiar subject in Iranian cinema—a young boy’s triumph over adversity. What sets A True Story apart, however, is Jalili’s unwavering altruism toward his young subject and willingness to turn an unflinching eye on his role in transforming the boy’s destiny.

As the film begins, Jalili wrestles with the devastating news that Samad, the star of his upcoming film, is afflicted with a disease that may cost him his leg. The filmmaker decides to abandon the project and dedicate his efforts to documenting and facilitating Samad’s struggle to obtain treatment. In addition to agreeing to finance the operation, the filmmaker calls upon personal favors and connections to procure a competent surgeon. Through its vérité-style reportage, the film sheds light on Samad’s turbulent life of poverty and familial neglect. As Jalili stalls the operation while he waits for commitments from film financiers and a camera-friendly physician, the cocky youngster questions the director’s seemingly selfless interest. Often funny and always provocative, A True Story is an astonishing portrait of the benevolent filmmaker, his tenacious subject, and the complex relationship between art and life.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]