- Published on Saturday, 20 August 2011 10:00
- Category: Art
After a year’s absence, the Noor Iranian Film Festival was back this month and full of energy at the James Bridges Theater in Los Angeles. From Aug 5-7, the festival showcased films exploring Iranian themes, offering a rich selection of cinematic gems for Iranian and non-Iranian audiences alike.
First held in 2007, the Noor Film Festival was the first Iranian film festival based outside of Iran. But due to the political unrest in Iran in 2010, and to show solidarity with the Iranian people, the fourth edition of the festival was delayed by a year.
Siamak Ghahremani, the festival’s director, founder, and producer, understands that the mission to promote Iranian cinema is risky, especially as hard-line government officials seek to crack down on public showings. “My friend Anthony Azizi and I used to talk about how there is so much negativity about Iran in the U.S. We wished there was something that would show the non-Iranian community that the Iranian culture is beautiful,” Ghahremani told AslanMedia.
Azizi and Ghahremani both recognized the popularity of Iranian films in Hollywood and the immense talent of Iranian filmmakers. They founded the festival to invite Iranian and non-Iranian filmmakers to exhibit films on Iran that would distinguish between the Iranian government and its people.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the Iranian community here and worldwide. The festival is still in its infancy, but its impact has been great,” Ghahremani said. “The non-Iranian community has come to recognize Iranian talent, creating a network for Iranian talent.”
The festival also promotes filmmakers who have jeopardized their Iranian citizenship due to the controversial nature of their work. One such example is Director and Writer, Maryam Keshavarz, whose film Circumstance garnered positive reviews and won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, but was banned in Iran. Keshavarz, a New York native, had to leave Iran because of the storyline of her film, which deals with the ardent love affair between two 16-year-old girls. The film shows how the youth of Iran indulge in an alternative world of drugs, sex, and alcohol to deal with the repressive “circumstances” placed upon them.
Circumstance was presented to a full house as the centerpiece film on the second day of the festival. Keshavarz and actor Reza Sixo Safai, who plays the complex role of the brother of one of the girls in the film, were present at the panel discussion at the end of the screening. Keshavarz said that since it was impossible to shoot the film in Iran, finding a location that would mimic the Iranian architecture and atmosphere was tricky. She finally chose Beirut because it “had the texture and evoked similar feelings of Iran.”
The first two days of the festival presented a collection of short films, with feature-length films concluding both the days. An awards ceremony took place on the final day where Iranian-American producer and director, Bob Yari, (Crash and The Illusionist) was presented with the 2011 Noor Film Festival Achievement Award.
Throughout the festival, a lineup of 25 films were shown and judged by a notable panel of judges: Kami Asgar, Max Martini, Bai Ling and Frances Fisher, and Corey Feldman.
“We plan to include Iranian producers, directors and not just actors on the judges panel next year,” Ghahremani said of his future plans for the festival. “We want to be established worldwide and make this a traveling festival.”
By Alnas Zia, Aslan Media Contributor