Negar Mottahedeh

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Mobile Memories.


The academic school year 2012-13 is over! I'm thrilled to have taught two really awesome seminars with projects designed by students on the topic social movements and their uses of social media...research projects on everything from KONY 2012 to The Harlem Shake as a battle cry for Arab youth.

My M.A. student Jing Niu has also completed a fabulous web project on cellphones, our mobile addictions and our memories of their first appearance in our lives.

I really love the project!

The memories project recalls the early versions of the Nokia smart phone, the bag phones, the handys, and the first one-way lover's quarrels we heard in urban landscapes around the world, from Tokyo to New York City.

(I come in with one of my own first memories around 1:06)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Asghar Farhadi's Oscar win by Duke University Press.

Duke University Press published this little post on Displaced Allegories and on Asghar Farhadi's Oscar win. So honored.

For a review of Displaced Allegories check out Michelle Langford's in Senses of Cinema

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Women and Iranian Cinema

My first Persian language interview for television: A bit bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I'd say, but here's my hopeful take on Iranian cinema and its representation of women under the rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran... I take a little peek in the crystal ball and talk about what I see as the future of Iranian cinema as well. (Persian only. No subtitles.)

negar mottahedeh

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Transforming consciousness: "When I move you move...just like that"

The post-election crisis in Iran in 2009 ( #iranelection ) inspired many around the world in support of the Green Movement. A symbol of that uprising is now in Liberty Square as Occupy Wall Street ( #OWS ) gathers steam and people move onto the streets in protest all over the world...from Madrid to Sydney.

G. I. Gurdjieff once wrote that: "The evolution of man is the evolution of his consciousness, and "consciousness" cannot evolve unconsciously. The evolution of man is the evolution of his will, and "will" cannot evolve involuntarily. The evolution of man is the evolution of his power of doing, and "doing" cannot be the result of things which "happen.""

Revolution is always first a creative transformation of consciousness and this transformation is always incremental. Each instance of transformation inspires the next with creativity and will.

The video presentation below reflects on the uprising in Iran in 2009 and the waves of uprising that have followed on its heels ever since. Once again I draw on the commanding words of Ludacris which presaged the movement toward social transformation when he said: "When I move you move...just like that!"

Here's to the 99% that have risen tonight to Occupy Together

TechPowerTalk from Melanie Plageman on Vimeo.

(My gratitude to Melanie Plageman for organizing an excellent conference on technology and social movements from which this video derives.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Video traces of our tribute to the silenced filmmaker Jafar Panahi at Asia Society

My colleague Hamid Dabashi and I had the idea early this year to create, with the exquisite La Frances Hui of Asia Society in New York, a tribute at Asia Society to the silenced Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

I am only just now getting to the task of collecting the videos that were produced during the course of the month long tribute, thanks to the very capable staff of Asia Society.

These are mostly introductions to the films, but there is also a final panel discussion which includes remarks by Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University-Moderator), Hadi Ghaemi (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran), Negar Mottahedeh (Duke University), Richard Peña (Film Society of Lincoln Center/Columbia University).

Hamid Dabashi on Crimson Gold.

Negar Mottahedeh on Offside

Negar Mottahedeh on The Circle

Reflections on Jafar Panahi's life, work and sentence by Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University-Moderator), Hadi Ghaemi (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran), Negar Mottahedeh (Duke University), Richard Peña (Film Society of Lincoln Center/Columbia University).

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's either me or the beer, boys. Giving all y'all a piece of my mind.

~There's something about the video that reminds me of my state of mind. "It's either me or the beer, boys."

I value eye-contact when it comes to finding a romantic partner and believe me, that's been quite a mission for me, and it has been a mission for quite some time. I'm not the easiest person to really get to know. I'm on the go, I'm always working, I'm headstrong, I'm independent, I rarely back down and although I'm open, I don't make myself vulnerable very often. Quite the contrary. Actually, I have to make an effort, a real effort everyday, to connect and be real. I see it as my work.

I'm not going to talk about being real though. I'm being real, and it's my "eye-contact" I'm interested in this time...That's the thing in the movies that tells us that the two people in the story are going to get together. In film studies lingo it's called the eye-line match. In real life, I have no idea how to maintain it with a guy who I don't know across the room without wanting to bury my head in the sand. So, yeah, I have resorted to online dating.

What surprises me online is how many guys choose profile pictures of themselves with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I suppose there's an unspoken tradition here, one that says, "I'm laid back, 'cause look at me, I drink beer." Or, I'm a super star aficionado. 'Cause, look, I drink this wine." I don't know. I don't know what it all means.

Frankly, I don't drink and I never click on profiles where the first photo is the guy holding a glass, no matter what it is. But my big question is, why do guys do that? Why do they think it's attractive?

I think I want to investigate that next. I'm going to stop it with all the judgments, get curious, and just ask. "What's up with the beer photos, guys?"

I'm guessing, that in the online tradition, it must be something akin to a tradition in painting where businessmen decided at one point that they were getting wealthy and powerful, and as a result wanted to show off their possessions. They had achieved a state of being they wanted to project in the world. (See page 13 in John Berger's Ways of Seeing on this tradition in oil painting. Google Ways of Seeing for the Pdf.)

In the case of the guys I am making "eye-contact" with online, the "wine-in-hand tradition" is a sign of a state of being too. What is the state, though?

Wouldn't you like to know? Maybe not, but I do.

And that is my mission. Speak up if you have something to say about it!

(I posted this on "Negar in NYC" because I want to eventually write a magazine article about my investigations, but I think the blog actually belongs here, where I like to discuss the intersection of technology and the human with you, my friends.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Wind in Film: Kiarostami's Five (for the Iranian film Blogathon)

I am reposting this short piece on Kiarostami and movement for the Iranian Blogathon Feb 21-27, 2011:

I never tire of watching Abbas Kiarostami's Five. The combination of natural, elemental forces, and the human and technologically mediated incident simply bring me to life and charge me with wonderment and delight.


I have for some time now enjoyed my exchanges around art, books, photography, music, philosophy, literature, technology and the wonders of our age with my friend Darius Himes. And we have, off and on, both remarked on our love for Kiarostami's work. Then suddenly yesterday, amidst the hustle of the Duke-at-work-Saturday, I discovered that Darius had used one of our favorite Social Media tools to make a short film about the book and the wind. I love it. It reminds me of passages in Kiarostami's Five. Elegant and elemental. Wind and paper ... then, movement, the essence and object of cinematic fascination from the start. (Remember the rustling of the leaves in Lumiere's The Baby's Meal [Repas de bebe, no. 88, 1895]?**)

** In Lumière’s Repas de bébé, of 1895, it was not the relatively repetitive activity of feeding the baby that captured the attention of the audience, but the small matter of leaves rustling in the background, moving discontinuously in an otherwise imperceptible breeze. A small matter perhaps, but for an audience familiar with the closed circuit of mechanical illusions of motion (via such devices as thaumatropes, zooetropes, phenakistascopes) the discontinuous demarcated the territory of the real, and confirmed the verisimilitude ceded to the camera. --Thomas Zummer "Arrestments: Corporeality and Mediation"