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Interview with Niloufar Talebi, the creator and visionary behind the Iranian Literary Arts Festival (ILAF)


ILAF is a week long festival that celebrates the literary and high brow works of Contemporary Iranian writers, poets, filmmakers, and artists, starting Tuesday November 13th through Saturday November 17th, 2007 at Theatre Artaud in San Francisco. 2 nights of film screenings, 3 nights of theatre, food, dance parties, one black tie Gala (hosted by philanthropist Bita Daryabari, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Ross Mirakrimi just to name a few) a book store, and a morning of panel discussions and keynotes about Iranian Literature. The timing, the genre, and even venue signify an edgy twist in the sensibilities of Iranian diaspora, hungry for the sort of cultural upgrade that is way overdue. ILAF offers just that, and it is refreshingly different from the same old style of the "tried and true".  In a recent interview with Niloufar Talebi, the visionary behind the Festival and creator of ICARUS/RISE, Lale' Welsh gets to the heart of this unusual event.



LW. People are talking about ICARUS/RISE, which is the center of the festival.  Is it a play?


NT. It's much more than a play. ICARUS/RISE is a multimedia theatrical piece based on new Iranian poetry, created in collaboration with composer, Bobak Salehi, and choreographer and video artist, Alex Ketley (formerly of SF and LINES Ballet). We have 11 artists on stage, telling the story with dance, live music, recitation, and video. The 9 poets whose poems create the script are all living poets of 3 different generations. Their provocative voices challenge their past, their new identities, sexual politics and the current state of the world.


LW: So what's with the Greek reference to Icarus?

ICARUS/RISE re-interprets the Greek myth of Icarus, who escaped from the prison of a labyrinth with wings that his father, Daedalus, fashioned out of feathers and wax. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun or his wings would melt. Icarus, bewitched by the beauty of the sun, flew too high and then plunged to his death on earth. In western mythology, Icarus symbolizes the "romantic artist", the one who risks all in the pursuit of beauty/truth.


LW: So you're drawing a parallel between the Iranian experience and a Greek tragedy?


NT: The title, ICARUS/RISE is a reversal of the myth because it suggests the possibility of a second, imaginary rise. ICARUS/RISE relates the myth of Icarus to the Iranian Revolution and to the experience of those who fled their homeland in its wake. It traces the journey from loss and exile to a triumphant regaining of balance and renewal. Dramatic poetry recitation is a age-old art form in Iran, one that ICAURS/RISE bends, fuses with new elements and pushes forward.


Schedule of Events:


Tuesday Nov 13 (Iranian Film Screenings)

6PM The Green Cold-Nasser Saffarian

7PM The House is Black-Forough Farrokhzad

7:30PM Seeds-Marjan Safina

9PM Ahmad Mahmoud-Bahman Maghsoudlou


Wednesday Nov 14 (Iranian Film Screenings)

6PM Young Republic-Nooshin Navidi

6:30PM The Mirror of the Soul-Nasser Saffarian

7:30 Beyond Words-Jahanshah Ardalan

8:30 Ahmad Shamlou-Bahman Maghsoudlou

9:30 Aref Squared-Nader Davoodi


Thursday Nov, 15 (Theater)

7PM Art exhibit & Cocktail reception by beyondPersia

8PM performance: ICARUS/RISE

9PM beyondPersia Post show party-Sold out!


Friday Nov 16, (Theater)

7PM Art exhibit & Cocktail reception by beyondPersia

8PM performance: ICARUS/RISE

9-11:30 PM beyondPersia Dance party with DJ Ali Reza!


Saturday Nov 17, (Theater)

6PM Silent Art Auction & Cocktail reception by beyondPersia

7PM performance: ICARUS/RISE

8-11:30 PM Gala Dinner and the live music of Kaweh and band!


Saturday Nov 17

11AM to 4PM On-site Iranian bookstore

11AM -Panel 1: "Performance and Literature" featuring Ram Devineni of Rattapallax Magazine, Zack Rogow, poet, translator and dramaturge and Niloufar Talebi, discuss their work in expanding presentation of literature beyond literary means.

12:30 PM-Panel 2: "Iranian literature as World literature" will feature Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran, Richard Jeffrey Newman, poet, and translator of classical Persian poetry, and Martin Riker, editor at Dalkey Archive Press, will discuss how literature becomes "world literature" and what role editors, scholars, educators, translators and publishers play in that endeavor.

2PM - Keynote talk by noted Iranian writer, Moniru Ravanipur: "Why is Iranian Literature not World Literature (yet)?"

3:20 PM-book signing by Moniru Ravanipur, Fatemeh Keshavarz, Richard Jeffrey Newman, Ram Devineni 


Festival panels, parties and films are free with any ticket purchase:  

$50.00 General Admission.

$35.00 Students. 

$185.00 for Gala at


More information at or





Panelist Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz (author of
Jasmine and Star: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran


Keynote speaker and author of 8 acclaimed books,
including Kanizu, Satan's Stones, The Drowned, Moniru Ravanipur


ALEX KETLEY (choreographer and video artist)


Music rehearsals of ICARUS/RISE with composer Bobak Salehi (in red holding violin and setar) --of course, this is just rehearsal, which means, we were DEVELOPING the music, so no dance, no lights, no costumes, no video, no nothing!



... Payvand News - 10/29/07 ... --

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