“752 Is Not A Number” (2022) is an audacious documentary by Canadian director Babak Payami dealing with the struggles faced by the families of the Flight PS752 plane crash victims in seeking justice for their loved ones. It mainly tells the story from the perspective of Hamed Esmaeilion, a Canadian dentist of Iranian descent who lost his wife and daughter in the crash. The flight, which belonged to a Ukrainian airline company, was mysteriously shot down as it was leaving Tehran International Airport on January 8, 2020, taking the lives of the 176 passengers who were on board. The film valiantly portrays the atrocities committed by the Iranian Government in trying to cover up the incident and serves as an appropriate symbol of resistance to government-sponsored tyranny.
‘752 Is Not A Number’ Story
With the backdrop of the severe political tension between Iran and America, brewing from the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, a high-ranking Iranian general, by a US drone attack, “752 Is Not A Number” meticulously documents the vicious causes that led to the tragic crash of Flight PS752, and the events that were to follow. Although the Iranian Government initially denied any involvement in the event, it later claimed responsibility under the pretense of protecting the country from another US attack. Hamed Esmaeilion, who was in Canada at the time of the crash, narrates how his wife, Parisa, and his little daughter, Reera, were supposed to arrive in Toronto on that day, but their flight had never made it out of Iran. At 6:15 am on the morning of January 8, the locals in Tehran noticed something falling rapidly out of the sky and assumed it to be a missile launched by US forces, but the truth was far from it. The flight that Parisa and Reera had boarded, along with 176 other Iranian and Canadian citizens, had crash-landed just after taking off from Tehran Airport. Within hours of the crash, the Canadian Prime Minister announced that he had received intelligence suggesting that the Iranian Government was involved in the lethal plane crash, later confirmed by American sources who reported that Flight PS752 was shot out of the sky by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile. All of these were denied by the Iranian officials, who stated that the crash had occurred due to some irreparable technical failures. Hamed narrates the agonizing moments after he heard about his family’s demise and traveled to Iran to bury them. It was then that the Islamic Republic of Iran claimed responsibility for shooting the plane down but blamed it on the short reaction time of the Iranian missile operator.
Hamed decided to bring Parisa and Reera’s bodies back to Canada to be buried to avoid their deaths being politicized. Afraid that he would be apprehended and imprisoned by the Iranian Government, he got in touch with Canadian officials to provide him with safe passage back to Canada. The director relates how his understanding of pain has changed since he met with Hamed at his home in Toronto after the burial ceremony for his wife and child. They had discussed the possibility of not receiving the justice that Hamed and the families of the other victims deserved, but the one thing they had sworn upon was the fact that they would never give up. Plagued with surveillance and restrictions at every step of the way, Hamed was faced with a new problem that threatened to derail his mission to seek justice: COVID-19. Payami narrates how he always kept a phone or a pocket recorder handy to document whatever Hamed was going through, be it late-night phone conferences or online meetings with high-ranking government officials. Very soon, a movement for justice began to take shape in Canada. Hamed’s chief objective was to launch a lawsuit in Canada, and for this, he had gathered with the other families to form a new association called the ‘Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims’, whose main principles would be to memorialize the victims’ lives, provide support for the families of the victims, and seek justice for them.
‘752 Is Not A Number’ Ending
Several gruesome facts came out in the open as the investigation into the crash was launched, including the fact that the Iranian Government had sent bulldozers to the crash site just days after the event to demolish any evidence left in ruins. There were other reports of the victims’ families being harassed and intimidated by Iranian officials to stop the investigation from taking shape, in spite of being warned multiple times by the Canadian Government, and the atrocities kept piling on. Almost a year after the crash, Hamid is contacted by an Iranian citizen claiming that he has damning evidence against the Government proving their involvement in the event, and Hamid is left to arrange for the evidence for a sum of seventy-five thousand dollars without the help of any official sources. He is finally granted a trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, to make his case in front of Ukrainian government officials for trying the ones responsible for the atrocities in the International Court of Justice. In an unfortunate turn of events, just as Hamid and his association had managed to get some support from the Ukrainian justice system and their mission had started to gain traction, news came in that Russia had attacked Ukraine, permanently docking Ukraine’s support from the case. Despite the repeated tribulations that plagued his mission, Hamid Esmaeilion, in the end, vows to continue seeking justice for the 176 passengers who were killed in the crash and for the hundreds of other family members, relatives, and friends whose lives were shattered as a result of losing their loved ones.