March 20th ushers in another new year – a Persian Iranian New Year known as Nowruz or “New Day” which coincides with the Spring equinox. It’s all new to me.
A third screening of the Community Cinema series’ February film, ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING, is scheduled for a free public showing Sunday, March 8th. This event’s co-presented with Washington Life Magazine. Why would Washington Life Magazine be interested? The President/CEO is Iranian American and has his own Arusi Persian Wedding story. The filmmaker Marjan Tehrani and her husband are coming to DC to be part of the Q&A this Sunday. [Visit www.communitycinema-dc.org for more information.]
ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING has been a wonderful teaching moment to me. Since working with this film, I’ve become acquainted with a very vibrant Iranian American community (and this includes Jewish Iranian American) right here where I live as well as other cities across the US. This film is packing the house in LA, Chicago, NY, Boston, New Orleans. ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING has brought audiences out into the open. Yes, there is a wedding in the film, but here’s where we get to the issue of people and politics (when and where do we separate).
“Are you here for the wedding?” has been my little joke when people check in at the door for the film screening. Prior to this ARUSI, I only had three memorable impressions of Iran: Ayatollahs/ clerics, protesters, and American hostages. That was all I saw [on TV]; that was all I knew.
I actually witnessed the protests here in DC that led to the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s. Many students marched in front of the White House chanting “Shah is a U.S. Puppet. Down with the Shah.” “Who was this Shah or “Shaw”? I was thinking? I was a kid. I was on summer vacation. My sister gave me the gift of an art class at the Corcoran School of Art. I’d walk from the Corcoran in front of the White House and towards downtown where my mother worked. Everyday, the protesters would be there chanting, lifting their signs. I’d walk past them, around them, and then one day, I decided to walk through them holding tight to my sketch pad and my tackle box. The student protesters never looked as if they’d hurt me. But they were obviously upset about something.
Along comes ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING – a generation after the Iranian Revolution. Alex and Heather are in love. He’s a first generation Iranian American, she’s the “American girl next door” from California. Alex is Marjan’s brother. They have no memories of the revolution, but they’re curious to know what happened. In some ways, so am I. I did play catch up years ago by buying the book Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi. Nafisi lives here now, in the Washington, DC area. The reading group described in the memoir, went underground to discuss “forbidden” works of Western literature: Jane Austin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Vladimir Nabovkov (author of Lolita). [Are Baldwin, Hurston, Hughes, Maxine Hong Kingston, Richard Wright also in this forbidden zone.]
I came away from the reading with an impression not much different than when I came in. There was a sadness in this memoir for what was initially a hopeful new beginning for Iran that just didn’t happen for a certain segment of the country’s citizens especially academic professionals. In some ways, this disappointed generation who were of age during the revolution remind me of Cuban exiles who supported the removal of Fulginio Baptista.
Today, I’m still seeing Ayatollahs and protesters – but from a distance and virtually. The hostage situation came to a close, maybe not quietly, but without crazy bloodshed. There are still many questions to ask, but ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING has given this dialogue on U.S. Iran relations a human face. It’s a familiar human face of people having picnics in the park, shopping in bazaars, eating, drinking, enjoying family, being in love…and some politics thrown in. It’s the Iran I’ve never seen and you probably won’t see on CNN or MSM more focused on the nuclear somethings (I’m not sure what), National Guards and “Imadinnerjacket” in Whoopi Goldberg’s words. There’s nothing else there according to their assessment – nothing worth caring about.
After seeing ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING I and others who’ve seen the film actually want to visit Iran. I’m sure travel plans are pending on the outcome of the elections in June as a friend was advised during one of the ARUSI screenings. Reformer and ex-President Mohamad Khatami has thrown his hat in the ring to run against the current conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I didn’t want to go political when I set up these screenings, but as this film and blog makes clear – it’s all interwoven and interconnected.
I gave away two copies of Persian Love Poetry at the first two screenings of ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING. The volume extends love to all human and godly kind.
All I ask is to see the people. It’s not too late for a new years resolution.
WHAT: Community Cinema with Washington Life Magazine presents ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING
WHEN: Sunday, March 8 at 5:30 PM
WHERE: Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW at V (zip 20009)
ADMISSION: FREE – RESERVE persianwedding[AT]communitycinema-dc.org or call 202-939-0794
WHO: Marjan Tehrani, filmmaker
Wedding display by Sofreh Atelier, Persian Sofreh Services – www.sofrehatelier.com
The Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art will host a Nowruz celebration Saturday, March 7 from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm. The Freer is located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue – DC. Najmieh Batmanglij , who presented at the first DC ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING screening will discuss the meaning of the Nowruz “haft sin” table and sign copies of her book “Happy Nowruz: Cooking with Children to Celebrate the Persian New Year” starting at 11 a.m. Batmanglij’s five cookbooks will also be available. For more information visit www.asia.si.edu.
For additional information about the “Independent Lens” series and Community Cinema, visit http://www.pbs.org/independentlens.