Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 6:30 pm
Asia Society Museum

Screening Program 6: Kamran Shirdel – Social Documentaries
As part of Iranian New Wave 1960s-1970s (Film Series)

A foremost figure in Iranian sociopolitical documentary, Kamran Shirdel studied filmmaking in Italy, with teachers including Roberto Rossellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. After returning to Iran, he made many documentaries focusing on the marginalized sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Art. But due to his revelations of the dark side of society at a time of seeming economic progress, Shirdel was expelled and exiled. Women’s Quarter and Tehran is the Capital of Iran had to be completed years later since materials were confiscated during production.

Screening introduced and followed by a Q&A with Hamid Naficy, Professor of Radio-Television-Film and the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Professor in Communication, Northwestern University.

Four short documentaries screened in one program:
Women’s Prison
1965. Iran. 11 min. B/W.

In this Tehran jail, over 200 women and girls are housed, convicted of crimes such as murder and drug addiction. Beyond depiction of peaceful literature and handicraft classes are desperate personal stories of women held behind bars.

Women’s Quarter
1966-1980. 18 min. B/W.

Shot in the red-light district of Tehran, this film portrays the bleak existence of prostitutes. A text recited in a classroom about the progress the country has made is juxtaposed with candid interviews with prostitutes, who tell their stories of capture, escape, poverty, and daily struggles.

Tehran is the Capital of Iran
1966-1980. Iran. 18 min. B/W.

A text glorifying the Shah’s regime is set to ironic images of a poverty-stricken district in Tehran, populated by homeless people, blood sellers, and petit criminals.

The Night It Rained
1967. Iran. 35 min. B/W.

A village boy is hailed in the media for heroically preventing a train’s derailment. Shirdel arrives in the village and unexpectedly hears opposing accounts of what happened. By presenting the different accounts, each serving the individual subject’s self-interest, Shirdel explores the possibility of truth.

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Above: Kamran Shirdel, “Tehran is the Capital of Iran” (1966-1980). Iran. 18 min. B/W. DVCAM. Courtesy of Asia Society Museum.