- Published on Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:16
The first week of March, the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts hosted a festival on Contemporary Middle Eastern Cinema. Bringing together recent films from the last decade from across the region, the festival gave Western audiences a chance to examine how other cultures use the medium of film to offer social commentary.
- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 14:52
Stories of prejudice against Muslims have a tendency to be on the borderline of self-pity and a “holier-than-thou” perspective. A lot has been said about the challenges of living in America as a Muslim, especially in the racially charged aftermath of 9/11. But Qasim “Q” Basir’s long-awaited film, “Mooz-lum,” takes you on a journey of self-discovery of a young man in the midst of family, cultural, and socio-political chaos. It’s a story that offers truthful glimpses into the lives of people across America.
Based on actual events, “Mooz-lum” portrays the coming-of-age story of Tariq (Evan Ross) as he leaves for college. He was brought up in a Muslim household under the strict vigilance of his father Hassan (Roger Guenveur Smith). His mother Safiyah (Nia Long) doesn’t agree with Hassan’s tough upbringing method, and this creates a rift between the two, leading Safiyah to divorce her husband. Hassan sends Tariq to an Islamic boarding school where a painful experience leaves him scarred for life.
- Published on Friday, 11 March 2011 18:13
Bordering Hollywood and “Tehrangeles,” UCLA served as a fitting host for the 21st annual “UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema”. The film festival, which ran throughout February and was funded by the Farhang Foundation and the U.S. Department of State, began in 1990 as an effort to introduce the American public to the artistic voices of modern Iran. It has since become a yearly rite for expatriates and cinephiles alike.
This year’s program featured a diverse lineup of films, ranging from pioneering pictures of the 1930s to contemporary productions like My Tehran For Sale that explore key issues of civil society, inequality, and poverty in Iran. In the spectrum of new and old works stood Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 feature Close-Up (Nema-ye Nazdik), which tells the true story of Hossein Sabzian—an unemployed printer’s assistant who falsely presents himself as famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf to a fellow passenger on a Tehran bus.
The passenger, Mrs. Ahankhah, welcomes Sabzian into her family under the impression that he, as Makhmalbaf, can help her struggling son enter the film industry. Sabzian then spends several days with the family, outlining his ambitions for his “next film” and receiving a sizeable loan from his hosts.
- Published on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 00:15
Iranian films have long had a presence at Sundance, often playing to packed houses and taking home major awards. According to John Nein, Senior Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival, there were half a dozen Persian language films to choose from this year.
“Persian cinema has a long and rich tradition,” Nein says, “but it’s been evolving recently in interesting ways – in its formal qualities and how it engages with important contemporary issues. Iranian filmmakers are not only experimenting with form, but they clearly have a lot to say. They’re engaging in the issues of their own society, but also constructing a bridge for other people to understand what is happening there.”
- Published on Monday, 07 February 2011 22:24
In most countries, skateboards bring to mind delinquent youths and a rebellious counterculture, usually fighting against some hyperbolic Norman Rockwell-esc society. But in Afghanistan, skateboarding can be a matter of life and death – literally.
In Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, one organization is using skateboarding as a way to lift the city’s youth out of the bleak situation they face in a war-torn country. Skateistan, founded in 2007 by Oliver Percovich, uses skateboards as a way to bring together a generation of children who have grown up knowing nothing but conflict and violence.
In Afghanistan, 50% of the population is under the age of 16, and 75% is under the age of 25. Percovich and his cohorts saw a potentially lost generation and decided to give them an outlet to have fun and avoid falling into the traps of despair and violence.
Alongside the skateboarding, the organization promotes education. At Skateistan, the kids drive the teaching agenda. They have asked for more teachers so that they can learn English and how to use a computer – and, at each step, they push to learn more.
“How can you access education for the youth, how can they learn to develop a voice and get to where they want to get to. They can do that in a lot of ways, through the channel of sport,” Percovich told me in an exclusive interview. “Many street-working children have never held a pen before, but they can take part in a soccer match. I can jump on a skateboard with a five year-old Afghan girl. We’ve got a different religion, different culture, different socio-economic background. We can’t be more unalike. But we’re the same on a skateboard. We both fall off together. That gives us an instant connection.”