In this exclusive clip from Independent Lens’ When God Sleeps, now streaming online, Iranian musician Shahin Najafi gears up to perform in his adoptive home of Germany—where he’s lived in exile since 2012, when his satirical rap song “Hey, Naghi!” led hardline clerics in Iran to issue a fatwa demanding Najafi’s death.
Director Till Schauder’s documentary offers a detailed slice of Najafi’s complicated life, from omnipresent security concerns—as we see in the clip, his manager, Augusto, spends much of the run-up to the show fretting—to his ongoing political engagement—Najafi offers free entry to refugees via Twitter. Add in his romance with Leili Bazargan, granddaughter of the first prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the rise of right-wing nationalism across Europe, and Najafi’s a one-man prism through which some of the most hot-button issues of the day. “I was in their place once,” he says of the refugees he invited to see him play. “So this is a gift from us.”