By Darla Shelden
A five-night film series co-organized by the University of Oklahoma Iranian Studies Program, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) and the Fred Jones Museum of Art at OU will present “Spotlight on Iranian Cinema” from October 16 – 21.
The first two nights of the series (Tuesday and Wednesday) will be held on the OU campus in the Fred Jones Museum, 555 Elm Ave, in Norman. The remaining screenings (Thursday – Sunday) will be held at the OKCMOA at 415 Couch Drive in downtown Oklahoma City.
“The OU Iranian Studies Program is co-sponsoring this film series in order to show the complexity of contemporary Iranian society and the richness of Iran’s cultural and literary heritage,” said Afshin Marashi, Associate Professor OU Department of International and Area Studies. “Very often when we think of Iran we tend to focus narrowly on politics, and we lose sight of the richness of Iran’s cultural heritage. This film series is an attempt to give Oklahomans a new perspective on Iran.”
“Turtles Can Fly” by director Bahman Ghobadi will open the series on October 16 at 7 p.m. In this drama, Kurdish children organize to clear minefields on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq. This film, shown in Persian and Kurdish with English subtitles, was the official Iranian entry for the 2004 Academy Awards.
On October 17, “aBran” will screen at 7 p.m. After losing his job, Tehran construction worker, Lateef, becomes obsessed with his young replacement, Rahmat. Lateef soon discovers that Rahmat, in disguise, is actually Baran, a young Afghani woman who is working illegally to support her family. Lateef befriends Baran and learns lessons in tolerance. The 2001 film, directed by Majid Majidi, is shown in Persian, Azerbaijani, and Dari with English subtitles.
The series moves to OKCMOA with screenings of “This is Not a Film” on Thursday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. and also on Sunday, October 21 at 2 p.m. This 2010 documentary, shot partially with an iPhone, depicts the life of its acclaimed director Jafar Panahi during his house arrest in Tehran. While appealing his six year sentence and a 20 year ban from filmmaking, Panahi is seen on the phone discussing his plight with assistant director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. The film is in Persian with English subtitles. Panahi’s short film, “The Accordion,” produced by ART for The World in 2010 within the collective film project “Then and Now, Beyond Borders & Differences,” will also be shown.
“The Green Wave” will screen on Friday and Saturday, October 19 and 20 at 5:30 p.m. The 2008 elections held hope for a new generation of Iranians. Polls predicted challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi would be Iran’s next president. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, a backlash of violence called the “Green Wave” used media technology, to fight the status quo. This 2010 documentary by Ali Samadi Ahadi combines animation with live-action footage provided by bloggers. It shows government sanctioned violence and also a vision of peace through resistance. Shown in English and Persian with English subtitles.
2012 Academy Award winner “A Separation,” by director Asghar Farhadi, will screen Friday and Saturday October 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. This film depicts the dissolution of a marriage. Simin, who wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh, sues for divorce when Nader refuses to leave his Alzheimer-suffering father. Nader soon discovers there is more at stake than just his marriage. Shown in Persian with English subtitles.
“The recent success of ‘A Separation’ having received the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, was a major breakthrough for Iranian film in the U.S. and reminds us to look more closely at Iranian culture,” said Marashi. “Iran is a dynamic society, and this creativity is taking place today despite the politics of the ruling government and the restrictions that the ruling clerics often impose on artists and film-makers inside Iran. The powerful story told in “A Separation” expresses poignant themes of family, love, responsibility, survival, fear, and hope. Those are universal human values that are as common in Iran as they are here in Oklahoma.”
On Sunday October 21, special guest Hamid Naficy, a Professor of Radio, Television and Film at Northwestern University, will speak following the 2 p.m. screening of “This is Not a Film.” A reception will be held afterwards.
“My talk is on the social history of Iranian cinema from late 1890s to 2010,” said Naficy. “It is based on 40 years of research which resulted in a 4-volume book, “A Social History of Iranian Cinema” (Duke University Press). The talk focuses on the way Iranian cinema was from the start transnational, with some of the early films being made abroad. Some of the latest films, such as “This Is Not a Film,” although made at home were not screened in Iran due to censorship, yet were widely screened abroad.”