Two years after the first acclaimed series Thomas Erdbrink once again takes us through Iran, the country where he lives, works and is married. Quite a bit has changed. For instance there is now a nuclear accord and trade with Iran is taking place once again. During the last election, the enlightened candidate won from the hard-liners. It seems that the grasping of the reigns can be celebrated in Iran, but for Erdbrink there still remains enough to garner his continued amazement.
Since Trump has become president the language of the US has become more threatening. America is heading for a turnaround in Iran, and the sooner the better. This is the main call from the hard-liners, who in the meantime have not sat still. They know you can no longer win over the population simply with old-fashioned propaganda in the form of murals. Instead they recruit hipster-like whiz kids who use pulsating house music in captivating anti-USA internet clips that resonate the pride for the invincible fatherland.
Erdbrink discusses the love-hate relationship between the US and Iran while investigating the situation even further. He visits the frontline: the Strait of Hormuz where the American fifth fleet continues to sail around. He reconstructs the disaster with the Iranian Airbus that was mistakenly shot down by the Americans. In America he tries to discover why Iran is far more feared than Saudi Arabia for example. He is surprised by the militant war mongering of the right-wing radio hosts.
More than a million Iranians have settled in the United States. Hopeful about the future of Iran, the first daredevils are preparing to return. Including Erdbrink’s Iranian niece, who he helped raise. She now lives with her mother in the US but only wants one thing: returning to Iran because life there is much more exciting than in well-behaved San Francisco. She finds the cat and mouse game played by the moral police to be amusing. Erdbrink’s former assistant Somaya traded the narrow-minded atmosphere in Tehran for a life on the American east coast. For her the transition was not a successful one.
In Iran Erdbrink spends time with former foreign fighters from Syria who are enthusiastic about a new measure of power with the US. And in a suburb of Tehran he finds the murderer of Khomeiny, an embittered black American who feels used and compares his exile in Iran as living in a prison.
Meanwhile everyday life in Iran goes on. The government organizes speed dating gatherings to encourage people to marry and have children. The popularity of Instagram has ripped open the strong family structures: now that it is so easy to see how vast the choices are, divorces are on the rise. Many marriages fail due to one of the partners becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. For a country where alcohol is forbidden, there are a surprisingly large number of rehab clinics. Iran remains an unusual land, but with many astonishingly-normal traits.