Movies have the power to transport their audience to a different place and time, and on Friday, audiences will be transported 10,000 miles away to Iran.
In March of this year, Iran’s House of Cinema, an association of people in the film industry, invited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Iran to be a part of a cultural exchange forum about film. In Tehran, Iran, Academy members and their Iranian hosts took part in an educational screening and discussion program on various aspects of film.
Starting Friday until Oct. 16, the Academy in conjunction with the UCLA Film & Television Archive will return the invite, hosting a group of Iranian directors, writers and actors who will make up various panels alongside screenings of eight selected films.
“Up Close and Personal: Iranian Filmmakers in Their Own Words” is one of a number of international series put on by the Archive. The screenings will take place at the James Bridges Theater until Sunday and the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood until Oct. 16.
According to Kelly Graml, UCLA Film & Television Archive director of communications, UCLA has one of the oldest running Iranian film programs in the United States, representing the country’s cinema for 20 years.
After noting the restrictive government in Iran, President of UCLA’s Iranian Student Group, Beeta Baghoolizadeh, a fourth-year international development studies and Iranian studies student, spoke of the series as “a really big deal,” and a rare cultural exchange between visiting filmmakers and attendees.
“The (Iranian) movies are very telling of what’s going on with society,” Baghoolizadeh said. “Even though people are like, “˜There’s no freedom of speech (in Iran),’ the directors and the producers and the actors, they’re all really talented about getting around the red tape.”
The series will kick off with a screening of director Reza Mir-Karimi’s “As Simple As That,” which is about a woman struggling to balance her own ambitions and the pressures of being a mother and wife.
Although the visiting filmmakers were unavailable for interviews, Maria Elena de las Carreras, a visiting assistant professor in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, said she expects the films to follow the trends of Iranian film. She described Iranian films as “intimate stories,” often chronicling everyday situations in Iran.
“There’s a trend of showing families (and) family drama involving ordinary people,” de las Carreras said. “There is a tendency to show ordinary life.”
De las Carreras, who teaches Iranian cinema in her classes, also had a few words to say regarding the selection of films being shown, a limited selection that she thinks follows the parameters set by Iran’s current regime.
“I think (the series) is very interesting, very important. It’s probably the first time we have had such a delegation,” de las Carreras said.
“But I don’t know who made the selection. When I read the delegation that’s coming, it’s all sent by their government. It’s not that people decided.”
Stating her reservations about what she calls the parameters the filmmakers had to follow in making films the regime was willing to export, de las Carreras is interested to see how the films will negotiate the private and the public spheres of life for Iranians. She hypothesized that the films’ focus on private lives and issues will likely reflect more public ““ and more controversial ““ issues.
“We’re going to be seeing films that are most likely metaphorical about the political situation,” de las Carreras said.
Baghoolizadeh also plans to attend the series and make the most of the event.
“(These movies) shed light on what goes through people’s minds in (Iranian) society. They shed light on the difficulties of life,” Baghoolizadeh said. “It’s really one of the mediums that I think shows it the most.”
Baghoolizadeh, who has seen more Iranian films than American ones, acknowledges the possible restrictions, but remains optimistic.
“Even though the government does have a lot of say in what movies are being sent out, even that little bit is still important.
Restricted speech is better than no speech.”