Synopsis by Mark Deming
Iran has been ruled by an Islamic fundamentalist government since 1979, but there is one area where they've been unwilling to allow Shiite citizens to express their faith. Imam Hussein was a Shiite Muslim holy man who became a martyr to his faith, and a sacred shrine to his life's work has been established -- in Iraq. Given the political tensions between the two nations, the Iranian government has not been willing to allow its citizens to cross into Iraq, even for a religious pilgrimage, while Iraq has shown no greater willingness to allow Iranians to visit their nation. Despite this, nearly every day more than a thousand Shiite Muslims attempt to cross into Iraq to pay homage to Imam Hussein, and many will go to remarkable (and dangerous) extremes to make the voyage. Some will cross desert minefields, others will ride through in the backs of covered trucks, and while a good number are captured by border patrols, many slip through undetected. Being captured generally means serving at least a year in prison, but the faithful press on, believing that Allah's law trumps the Iranian legal system. Pilgrimage (aka Ziarat) is a documentary that takes a sometimes witty but always respectful look at this legal and spiritual paradox, and the travelers who are caught in the middle.