Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get over it!

I agreed to do a podcast for Duke University Press  which just published my second book: Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema. 

The Press wanted something current, like a discussion of the Oscar winning Iranian films for 2008 and a section on how current Iranian films are representing the 30th Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. I've been studying the film industry and Post-Revolutionary Iranian films since the early 90s, flying out to film festivals all over the world just to see the latest Abbas  Kiarostami or Rakhshan Bani-Etemad feature film. But this assignment seemed quite difficult. Maybe it was because it would go public on Youtube, I don't know... Or maybe it was my being conscious of the fact that Iranian films that are popular with audiences in Iran rarely make it out of the country to the international screen in the first year of their production. It felt awkward to only speak to the foreign reception of Iranian films and not on topic, on what was going on on the ground.

Stretched for time between classes and my responsibilities as a faculty member in the Literature Program at Duke University, I was doing research late at night and all day long.  
What I found was fascinating. The Islamic Republic celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Revolution in high fashion, staging the arrival of the spiritual and political leader of the revolution from exile at Mehrabad airport alongside a full string orchestra! 

Lots of parades and glittering honors.

I also found that an inspiring collection of films were actually being screened at the annual International Film Festival which commemorates the ten days of the Revolution. The film Walking My Life by Japanese director Satoshi Isaka won the Crystal Simorgh Prize for best film of Seeking the Truth (Competition of Spiritual Cinema) of the 27th International Fajr Film Festival. And Director Rashid Masharawi’s Laila’s Birthday won the special Moustapha Akkad Prize.  The audience vote and Crystal Simorgh Prize went to Bahram Bayza'i for his While We Were All Dreaming and I have to say that I was thrilled. 

A lot of what I discovered didn't end up working for the interview which was a scene of its own: The two interviewers and I laughed at the amateurish setting...

the lack of fill lighting, the camera equipment (yes believe it or not!)..Finally me: I laughed at my hair, baggy eyes and whimsical last minute choice of clothing and accessories. I got my numbers wrong. (Veiling ends with the Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1936 and compulsory veiling begins with the Islamic Repubic in 1982. And there were more that 227 films competing in the 27th Fajr Film festival.) My mind went numb, obviously. The camera battery died half way. I decided to take a photo of it, tweet it, and check my facts while the camera battery recharged.

 The whole event went down in less than an hour. It started late, stuttered, and went live before the day was done. We made it fun together.

...And in the end, the interview did what it needed to do, which was to highlight the importance of the film industry in the making of a theocratic state. It also highlighted a little known, but very important film industry and an international film festival of proportions. 

 My lesson: Get over it! Get over it and just do it!