Farhang Foundation Film Festival: Call for Entries & LACMA Screening


The newly formed Farhang Foundation has a call for entries for their eponymous film festival, which is being produced by the fine folks at SoCiArts. Here are the guidelines:

For the Farhang Foundation Film Festival, filmmakers from all walks of life, Iranian and non-Iranian, are welcome to create and submit a short, five to eight minute movie, of any genre and style, visualizing their unique take on Iranian Heritage. Farhang Foundation defines Iranian Heritage as a way of life and culture that has been passed from one generation to the next in an Iranian influenced environment and is not limited to geographical borders.  It may include elements from the past and present of Iranian arts, literature, music and history. Submissions will be accepted through February 1, 2009 via www.sociarts.com.

The winner will receive $5,000USD cash prize, as well as travel expenses to attend the award presentation during the Farhang Foundation Nowruz Celebration at LACMA.

The winning entry will be screened at LACMA, and all submitted films can be viewed on the SoCiArts website.

Tehran Has No More Pomegranates: L.A. Screenings and Q&A with Director Massoud Bakhshi

Experimental documentary Tehran Has No More Pomegranates is coming to L.A. this week, with two screenings each on Wednesday and Thursday at the Landmark in West LA, at 7pm and 9pm (details at Sociarts). Watch the film’s opener above, and find out more about the film and its director, Massoud Bakhshi, in our Q&A below: 

Pars Arts: The narrative context of Tehran Has No More Pomegranates – the “musical, historical, comedy, docu-drama, love story, experimental film” you’ve created – is a report you’re writing that explains why it’s not complete. This self-reflexivity – referring to the process of creating the film, within the film – continues throughout. Can you talk a bit about why you decided to couch the story in this context and format?

Massoud Bakhshi: Personally, I am fascinated by form in cinema, and “film in film” or “making of” has always been a wonderful plattform for any narrative film to me. And I think here in Iran, stories behind the camera are more interesting than those in front of it.

PA: The idea of a story or film not being complete or finished seems especially appropriate for a story about a big city, because they’re so dynamic. It took you five years to edit the film: how many iterations of the film did you go through, and how did you know when you were done?

MB: I am always working with a script, no matter if it’s fiction or documentary. I had the complete story of this film in my hand in 2000! And then I changed everything in shooting and especially in editing. I think a good film never ends -it continues because it remains with its audience. But this film is “unfinished” in its form because I think nobody would be able to finish a film about Tehran! 

PA: I read that you were really limited by the equipment available to you to create the film (namely, a camera that didn’t record sound), and that’s partly why even the footage that’s not archival has a retro feel. In fact, for a person that doesn’t live in Iran, it can be somewhat difficult to tell if some of the color footage is archival or not. Is that something you were going for all along? Do you think you would have approached this film differently or had a vastly different result with different equipment? How much did the limitations of your equipment help or inspire (or interfere) in shaping the story you told?   

MB: I think limits make young people more creative, especially here in Iran. I had lots of problems getting 35 mm stock, because everybody asked “Why are you making this film in 35mm and not in video?” But from the very beginning I wanted to make this film in 35mm, because I wanted to give life to dead, archival film footage and I was quasi-sure that I was making a film that captures the face of a very changing city and society and wanted to transmit this picture for future generations. The fact that we couldn’t record voice forced me not to use 25 hours of interviews I had recorded in video, blow them up in 35mm, and to make myself content in using the 35mm rushes I had in a different way.

PA: There are sizable doses of both history lesson and nostalgia in this film, particularly in the narration of Nosrat Karimi and in all the different music you used, which I imagine resonate a great deal with Iranians around the world. Have the reactions of the Iranian diaspora to this film been markedly different from those of audiences in Iran?

MB: Well, I saw different reactions in different places, but among Iranians, young people and old people both loved the film and its music. I think the different music used in this film evokes many different time periods in Tehran and that’s why people from different generations like it.

PA: You’ve said that your aim with Tehran Has No More Pomegranates is to hold up a mirror and reflect back a true image of Tehran and the country at large. The movie seems to be the most critical of the city in certain scenes that are cut off, or when your voiceover clearly contradicts the reality of the visuals on the screen – and in fact your voice seems that of the classic unreliable narrator (or at least the narrator that’s not playing it straight). In fact, the only character that does seem reliable is Jafar, who emerges throughout as a sort of protagonist. Most of the other characters are just visual portraits. How did you settle on him as the truth-teller in the film?

MB: I think he found us himself and he put himself into our film. From the beginning, I was telling myself not to shoot poverty and the poor so that I won’t be accused of making a “geda-geraphy” film (a the term invented for filmmakers focusing on those subjects so they can go to festivals with their films). But Jafar was an exception. He is not acting – he’s just telling the truth about himself and about the city, and that’s why he’s a key in the film. I shot him for just five minutes and I think I used all five minutes in the film!

I ‘d love to screen the film one day in his presence, and I know that he’s still wandering the streets of Tehran, looking for someplace to sleep and something to eat.

Re-Emerge: New Work by Khosro Berahmandi

"Astonished Beast," 2008, Khosro Berahmandi

Iranian artist Khosro Berahmandi writes to let us know he will be showing new drawings and paintings at Montreal’s MEKIC gallery in an exhibition entitled “Re-Emerge.” From MEKIC, here’s more about the work:

In this exhibition, Khosro once again ventures into extremely refined improvisations to offer us his reading of re-emergence.  He invites us to explore the unity of light, dark, and the eternal renewal of creation.  The artist uses the Persian word taro-poud, “The fund”, to refer to the inseparability of life and death, two threads that weave the story of our universe.

The exhibit will be on display until November 16.

(Previously on Pars Arts: Khosro Berahmandi’s “Argile étincelante” Show)

30 Years of Solitude

"Be Colourful," Shadi Ghadirian, 2006

An event put on by Iran Heritage in London this Saturday, 30 Years of Solitude is a day highlighting Iranian women artists. From Iran Heritage:

One of the most remarkable aspects of the exhibition is the sense of humour with which the artists tackle their problems, addressing major issues such as Islamic paternalism, loss of identity, isolation from the rest of the world, the Iranian Revolution and the devastating eight-year war with Iraq from 1981-1989 where thousands of teenagers ran to martyrdom. 30 Years of Solitude shows that the contemporary art of Iran has been hugely influenced by the traumatic historic events of the last three decades, and that millions of Iranians have been affected by them in one way or another. As Faryar Javaherian says “Art was a way to exorcise all the evils witnessed during the war and the Revolution. After World War II there was a similar outburst of art, literature and philosophy in Europe”.

Persian Portraits

Persian Portraits is a series of Iranian films curated by the Tehran-based Documentary Experimental Film Center. Among the films screened will be Ehsan Amani’s “The Slap” (Sili; previously covered). They’ll also be showing Massoud Bakhshi’s “Tehran Has No More Pomegranates” (Tehran Anar Nadarad); the video above includes an interview with Bakhshi. The event will take place at 7:30 pm on Sunday, September 28, at the Egyptian Theatre, as part of the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival

Details here (scroll down).

(Thanks, Arash!)

Pangea Day: Sili

Iranian actor and filmmaker Ehsan Amani had a funny short called Sili (The Slap) in yesterday’s worldwide filmfest Pangea Day – one of several dozen films and (I think) the only Iranian entry. Check out the rest of the day’s movies and more about Pangea Day here.

Pars Arts Twitters Irvine: the Iranian-American Writers Association

Pars Arts Twitter screenshot

The Inauguration of the Association of Iranian-American Writers is happening at UC Irvine tomorrow, in a workshop format that will address issues of representation and etc. It’s hosted by UCI’s Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture and its director, Nasrin Rahimieh, as well as writer and professor Persis Karim and journalist Homa Sarshar. Here’s a press release on Payvand News, and here’s the full day’s schedule. It’s free and open to the public, so please come if you can.

The attendees include people like novelists Porochista Khakpour and Anita Amirrezvani. And I’ll be there to talk about the Internet and blogs and self-publishing and social media, on a panel with Jahanshah Javid of Iranian.com. My talk will probably be mostly focused on the benefits for writers in engaging with their readership online.

I may not have wireless access there, but I will be talking to people, taking pictures, possibly shooting some video, and updating microblog site Twitter constantly throughout the day via my cell phone. You can follow that “coverage” at twitter.com/parsarts.

Noor Film Festival 2008 Photos

Saye Yabandeh

Hey, remember when we said we were going to the Noor Film Festival red carpet thingy? No? Well, we went. And Amy Malek – Pars Arts contributor, anthropology genius, NGO-starter, and fearless press photographer extraordinaire – took some amazing photos that you should definitely not miss. Seriously, it was elbows-out in this press pit and Amy spent a solid couple of hours wedged between some people from Persian satellite TV and a disgruntled yet chatty guy from one of the wire services. We love you, Amy.

Above, she managed to capture the Iranian Paris Hilton (accidentally?) flashing her dog’s nether regions. Persian Paris’s real name is Saye Yabandeh, and she’s an actress, and we think she kinda rocks for bringing her puppy to the LAX Hilton. And her pet’s coloring matches her leopard-print dress. So Hollywood!

Check out the rest of the photos, which include guy-who-plays-Dwight-Schrute Rainn Wilson, Iranian stage actress Mary Apick, and the best male Persian pop star of any of our lifetimes (Andy, duh), among others, in the full Noor Film Festival 2008 red carpet photo album.

So besides the pictures… our favorite thing of the night was the clip below. We say keep your eyes and ears open for this doc about prejudice and perception, Ain’t She Sweet, by Bita Haidarian:


Check out 127 (“saad o bist o haft”), a smart band out of Tehran that takes Iranian scales, adds a trombone, a dash of jazz, and a pinch of punk, then stirs it all together with sharp lyrics to make some delicious, delicious music. Think a cross between the Decemberists and Nellie McKay, but speed it up and imagine it in Persian and English both. I think the video above is my favorite song of theirs I’ve heard so far. Check out their beautiful website – that’s what you get when the band is comprised of a bunch of art students – and add them on MySpace.

I was very lucky to meet a couple of the band members, who are in LA now and winding down a US tour, at the Noor Film Festival this weekend (post on that coming very soon). Just got an email from their trombone with heads up that they’ll be performing at Arizona State University (I think? Will clarify when I get an update from them), on April 18… more soon!... here are the details of their April 18 show:

The 127 Band – playing on April 18, 2008
University of Arizona
Stage 2, located on Mountain Ave. and 2nd Street
Tucson, AZ 85721

2008 Noor Film Festival (and UCLA)

Noor Film Festival

The opening ceremony and red carpet good times for the 2008 Noor Film Festival are this Sunday in Los Angeles, kicking off a couple weeks of Iranian and Middle Eastern films. Pars Arts will be there, hopefully getting some photos and good quotes, so stay tuned.

I am really crossing my fingers that celebrity judge Rainn Wilson will be present, in character as Dwight Schrute, and also hoping to see his fellow celebrity judge, the amazingly illustrious Iranian-in-America director Reza Badiyi. Check out Bebin TV’s interview with Badiyi to see why he rocks so hard.

But enough about that. Here’s the full schedule of movies being screened in Beverly Hills. In its second year, Noor’s tagline is “Celebrating Women.” But I’m most excited about Nomads of Iran, Saied Atoofi’s documentary that explores the lives of two Iranian nomadic tribes. From Noor’s website, here’s a description:

This documentary is a rare glimpse of two major nomadic tribes of Iran, Quashquees and Bakhtiaris. Nomads talk about their lives, traditions, weddings, ways of making decisions for their families and tribes, and occasionally complement the beautiful scenery of their surroundings with singing nomadic songs.

This documentary also explores the changes of lives of nomads who preferred to stay put permanently and built a new way of life in small towns. Nomad-settlers explain how settlement has changed the very fabric of their family, way of thinking, and being in the world.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a trailer or clips for this film on YouTube (please leave a comment if you find anything). For Iranians in Colorado, the film is also being shown at the Colorado Springs Indie Spirit Film Festival at the end of the month.

Iranian film fans in LA should also know that the 18th Annual Iranian Film Festival is in progress now. Go, go, go, because it’s over on April 20th and then you have to wait another year again. Here’s a full schedule. The lineup is amazing… and I like that they have one night devoted to Iranian diaspora films (April 18). Buy your tickets from UCLA.