After he is visited by a former police officer (Tayebi) he once stabbed who now wishes to be an actor, real-life film director Makhmalbaf decides to recreate the violent incident from his student revolutionary past that links him to Tayebi. Working together, the men cast three youths, including teenage girl Marjam (Mohamadamini), to enact a series of minor events leading up to the 1974 altercation. As their efforts at verisimilitude veer from gravely serious to comically absurd, it becomes clear that Tayebi and Makhmalbaf have very different perspectives on the episode.
Makhmalbaf blends documentary and fiction in this unusually personal film, which carries echoes of Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” in its perspective-shifting structure, yet manages to convey a hopeful vision of anti-violence that’s uniquely Persian. Both an investigation into the lived past and a sly reordering of Makhmalbaf’s political priorities through imaginative play-acting, “A Moment of Innocence” is a modern-day fable that touts pacifism in the face of radical religious ideology.