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BRAVO MESDAMES!: Aghdashloo, Neshat, Reza and Farahani Shined Through 2009 Summer Season's International Awards


By Darius KADIVAR 

©imdb & ©Just Jared & ©Emmy Awards® & ©Tony Awards®
& photocomposition ©DK

" ...
When I was seventeen
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We'd hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen ..."

- Lyrics by Ervin Drake of Frank Sinatra's

Hit Song "It Was a Very Good Year"


It's been a particularly eventful Summer for the Iranian Diaspora Artists. Many have been blessed with prestigious International Awards in their discipline. Their personal success was also an opportunity for the laureates to highlight the struggle of their less fortunate compatriots and colleagues back home in their bid for freedom of expression, the respect of human rights and demands for genuine democracy. No doubt Our Irandokhts: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Shirin Neshat, Yasmina Reza and Golshifteh Farahani all brilliantly shined through 2009 Summer Season's International Arts Award ceremonies with their charm, enthusiasm and undeniable talent, thus, culturally bridging Europe, and North America with their native country Iran.
Interestingly 2009 marks a particularly rich and constructive turning point for the Iranian film community at large.
Last March a delegation of Hollywood actors and producers (*) arrived in Tehran to meet with their counterparts as part of a cultural exchange. Hollywood producer Sidney Ganis led the team, which included three-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening. There were a series of workshops and meetings with movie industry types in the Islamic Republic organized through Tehran's House of Cinema, a hangout for actors and directors. As with most exchanges between Iran and the U.S., the visit by the delegation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the annual Oscar® awards ceremonies, had not been without controversy. In a Persian-language report, Javad Shamaghdari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cultural advisor, demanded the delegation to apologize for Hollywood's alleged "insults and libels" against the Islamic Republic before it would get any meetings with ranking officials. Needless to say that the delegation refused to take such a demand into consideration, given the fact, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is in no way a spokesperson for the American government's policies nor has it ever tried to control the freedom of speech or expression of the film community in Hollywood. Anyone familiar with the history of Hollywood as an industry would know that the creative control of movies today depends less on political or cultural considerations than on financial restrictions imposed by the market. The "political correctness" imposed by the "Hays Codification" which played a major role in the 1930's up to the mid 1960's is no longer in application due to the evolution of mentalities within American society as well as that of a profession which recurrently needs to reinvent itself thanks to the talent and thriving imagination of the film community at large. Were it not the case, it would not be exaggerated to say that neither Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay or Tim Burton would have been able to transform the medium as spectacularly as they have thanks to their unique respective creative visions. Despite vehement critics from government officials and heated debates in the Iranian parliament (the Majlis) over the Hollywood delegations visit to Tehran's "House of Cinema" ( The Iranian Cinemateque), the exchange between the American and Iranian film professionals proved overwhelmingly successful and led to interesting exchanges and contacts between both communities ...


It's Been a Summer Triumphs For The Iranian Diaspora Film
and Theater Communities ©imdb

All the more that quite recently an Iranian delegation (**) consisting of Managing Director Mohammad-Mehdi Asgarpur, Deputy Director Farhad Tohidi, spokesman Amin Tarokh, and Directors Guild of Iran Managing Director Alireza Raiisian have also responded to an invitation from their Hollywood counterparts and UCLA Film & Television department to participate to a series of retrospectives and screenings of Iranian films during a festival entitled "Up Close and Personal: Iranian Filmmakers in Their Own Words" from October 9 to 16. In addition, filmmakers Ebrahim Hatamikia, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Reza Mirkarimi, Mojtaba Raei, documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and actress Fatemeh Motamed-Arya will take part in the discussions with film enthusiasts and students at UCLA. Proving if needed that both film communities can learn from one another and boost interest and exchanges between the Iranian and Hollywood film professionals for the first time in 30 years.


If the international film community has been familiar with the works of Iranian filmmakers and actors in the past two decades be it both in Europe and the United States, what seems to be particularly striking in recent years is the emergence of the Iranian Diaspora in nearly all fields of the movie and theater industry. This particular vitality could be explained by the fact that after nearly 30 years of exile from their homeland Iran, due to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the 8 year Iran-Iraq War, the first generation of expatriate Iranians sees the necessity to revisit it's roots in order to redefine it's new identity within a far more cosmopolitan environment. This awareness has generated a far more outspoken generation than that of their peers who simply had to struggle to survive. Due to the internet and Satellite TV, the global community has  also come to realize that people and cultures are interconnected and mutually  influence one another. Far more efficient than "Politics", it is rather "Art" which through its different mediums, be it film, photography, theater or literature tends to play a far more universal and unifying role in our collective consciousness.


©imdb & photocomposition ©DK


The Summer of 2009 will certainly be remembered by the Iranian community at large as well as the Iranian film community for two major reasons : the first being the presidential Post-Election Protests in Iran that were suppressed in an unprecedented violent clampdown by the Islamic Regime which was equaled to a Presidential "Coup" by all objective observers. The second being a direct consequence of the first and that is turning the Iranian film community both inside and outside Iran into one unifying aimed at voicing the predicament of their fellow compatriots struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Iran.


Indeed up to the tragic events that unfolded last June, little if no true visible exchange between Diaspora and Native Iranian filmmakers/actors was ever demonstrated in public ...

Whether or not this was due to fear of censorship or arrests in Iran, it remained that both communities, when present together, would ignore one another at film festivals. The brave behavior of the Iranian People at large and the Youth in particular during the violently suppressed demonstrations, triggered nearly everyone to drop their masks of indifference or envy, and join the amazing wave of solidarity that took the entire International community by storm. We thus could see such figures as
Marjane Satrapi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf get together in a public stance at the Human Rights Commission of the European Parliament to denounce the Iranian government's high jacking of the elections and the violence with which peaceful demonstrations were shut down. Similarly Iranian Artists such as actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, Pop Icon Googoosh, filmmaker Shirin Neshat, Pop Singer Dariush joined by Non Iranian Stars actors Isabella Rosselini, Robert Redford,  and Sean Penn amongst others responded to a symbolic Hunger Strike called by Former Dissident Akbar Ganji in Front of the United Nations in New York City. Paradoxically this unity between Artists beyond geographical and cultural bounderies has been one of the positive collateral consequences of what has since become known as Iran's "Green Revolution".


It is therefore because of this major uprising and the massive gesture of solidarity that followed amongst Iranians living both inside and outside their native country, that the following awards as well a the well deserving laureates, very symbolically, became the focal point of nearly all media attention in the Cinema and Theater Press.



A Quick Overview of the Awardees Below: 


Shohreh Aghdashloo EMMY 2009 (***)


Shohreh Aghdashloo won an Emmy award for her Outstanding performance in Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for House of Saddam at the 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday (September 20) in Los Angeles.

WATCH VIDEO (Shohreh Aghdashloo Speech upon Winning the Emmy Award )

WATCH VIDEO (Shohreh Aghdashloo meets the Press after receiving her Emmy Award and speaks about the situation in Iran)

Aghdashloo made her American acting debut 20 years ago and has enjoyed a distinguished and successful career.
A native of Iran, Aghdashloo, 57, exhibited depth and dignity as Saddam Hussein's first wife, Sajida, emerging as the striking standout in a male-dominated cast. Aghdashloo was proudly wearing a green bracelet (the color adopted by demonstrators in recent street protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) in a sign of solidarity for her compatriots back home. Aghdashloo has received numerous awards for her past performances including a nomination in 2003 for her role in the Drama "The House of Sand and Fog" opposite Sir Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.


Shirin Neshat wins Silver Lion at Venice Film Festival 2009


Iranian artist Shirin Neshat picked up the Silver Lion for best director at this year's Venice Film festival. Best known for her photographic and video art Neshat was awarded the prize for Women Without Men, a film about four women living through Iran's American-sponsored 1953 coup.

WATCH TRAILER (Women without Men directed by Shirin Neshat)

WATCH VIDEO ( Shirin Neshat Acceptance Speech)


WATCH 2nd VIDEO (Shirin Neshat on Iran's Green Revolution)


"This film speaks to the people of Iran fighting to find democracy and it speaks to the government of Iran," Neshat - accepted her prize wearing a green bracelet (the color adopted by demonstrators in recent street protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) - said. "I plead to this government to give the people what they should have - basic human rights, freedom and democracy." Neshat currently has a solo exhibition, titled Games of Desire, at Gladstone Gallery, Brussels.


Yasmina Reza - Tony Award for Best Play 2009


French playwright Yasmina Reza humorously accepted the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play for her work, God of Carnage, suggesting Tony Award voters, "missed my accent." Two previous Reza plays have been produced on Broadway, Life x 3, and the 1998 Tony Award winning play, Art. About the Tony Award for God of Carnage, Reza graciously exclaimed, "I share this award with my dearest Christopher and Matthew," referring to her frequent collaborators, Christopher Hampton and Matthew Warchus.

'God of Carnage' Tony Awards and Nominations:

VIDEO (Yasmina Reza Tony Acceptance Speech)

God of Carnage was nominated for six Tony Awards, Best Play, Best Direction of a play, and two each in the categories of Leading Actor and Leading Actress. All four actors in the Broadway cast were nominated. The cast included Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden. Harden won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress.

God of Carnage confronts two couples meeting to discuss a fight between their children. Reza's plays are known for providing actors with meaty roles, a quality perhaps influenced by her own theatrical beginnings as an actor. She had won a First Tony in 1998 for her Play "ART".

From Acting and Playwriting to Books and Film:

Yasmina Reza was born to an Iranian Father and Hungarian Mother and studied drama first in Paris at University X and then at the L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. She worked as an actor for several years before turning to playwriting.

According to the Los Angeles Times 1999 interview, She acted a short time until, she could no longer bear "to wait by the phone for the next part." In 1987 she wrote her first play Conversations After a Burial that won her a Moliere Award, the national theatre award in France, in the category of Best Author.



Golshifteh Farahani recieves the Eleonora Duse Prize 2009


The Eleonora Duse Prize is confered eacg year as an "International Recognition for a Prominent Figure in Theater or Cinema" at the Asolo Film Festival (Italy). It has been the cherry on the Cake for the Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani who was noticed as the first post Revolution Iranian actress to play in a Hollywood production entitled "A Body of Lies" opposite heartthrob Leonardo Di Caprio and under the helm of respected director Ridley Scott which sparked a good deal of controversy in Iran.

WATCH VIDEO (Golshifteh Farahani whistle's a song in gratitude upon receiving) the Eleonora Duse Prize.

WATCH VIDEO ( Golshifteh in an interview about her latest film "About Elly" speaks about the theme of "Lying" both in relation to her role and the situation in Iran)

 She has also become a spotlight of the French and European Press due to the success of her latest movie  "About Elly" directed by Asghar Farhadi which won the Berlin Bear for its director and a Golden Bear Nomination for Golshifteh's performance. On tour to promote this film in France she was surprised by the bloody aftermath  of the elections in her country and therefore decided to remain in France both as a sign of protest against the clampdown but also because her career has been talking a new international path, thanks to new proposals from European and Hollywood directors. She is indeed currently working on her second Hollywood film "There Be Dragons" directed by Roland Joffé ( The Mission) a drama set during the Spanish Civil War. 


The accomplishments of these beautiful and talented artists is certainly a source of pride and joy for the Iranian community at large and will certainly contribute to bridge even more solidly two communities separated by the tragedies of History and World Politics.

Let it be no doubt that one day our country will overcome its challenges and pave the way towards Freedom and Reconciliation. In the process our determined and brave " Irandokhts " will certainly play a central role in helping their compatriots (including their fellow colleagues) achieve that ultimate noble goal. So More Power to Them ! 







Author's Notes:


(*) IRAN: Hollywood delegation on mission of cinema diplomacy ( L.A. Times)

(**) Hollywood to Host Iranian Delegation in Return (Mehr News)
(***) Complete List of EMMY Awards Winners (and Nominees) : here


More Photos Here


Recommended Readings:


On Shohreh Aghdashloo


GETTING BIBLICAL: Shohreh Aghdashloo's New Epic Drama by Darius KADIVAR
A Director's Cut: Cyrus Nowrasteh film The Stoning of Soraya M. By Darius KADIVAR

"America So Beautiful": Babak Shokrian's bitter sweet look on the American Dream by Darius KADIVAR

ShockWave Aghdashloo's Dina Araz hits France by Darius KADIVAR

The House of Saddam by Darius KADIVAR

Between Two Rivers: Shohreh Aghdashloo cast as Saddam's wife in HBO-BBC mini tv series by Darius KADIVAR

On Yasmina Reza


GODS OF CARNAGE TRIUMPHS IN NEW YORK: Yasmina Reza Wins 2009 Tony Award for Best Play  by Darius KADIVAR

Seducer or Seduced ? Yasmina Reza Portrait of French President Elect Sarkozy by Darius KADIVAR


On Golshifteh Farahani


Banned Hollywood Dream: Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani troubled over a Body of Lies By Darius KADIVAR



Iranian Pioneers in French Cinema by Darius KADIVAR

Noor Film Festival Lights Your Way to Hollywood by Darius KADIVAR

ALLEZ MARJANE: No Win for Persepolis at Golden Globes as Oscar Momentum Approaches By Darius KADIVAR
A Hero Hosts: Adrian Pasdar at the 64th Golden Globe Awards by Darius KADIVAR
U.S. cast for Satrapi's Persepolis announced by Darius KADIVAR
Persepolis wins Prix du Jury at Cannes by Darius KADIVAR
Pasdar Fever Hits France by Darius KADIVAR
BREAKING THE WAVES: Iranian Women of the Diaspora Seduce French Media by Darius KADIVAR
Persian Golden Boys In Hollywood by Darius KADIVAR



About the Author:
Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is also contributes to OCPC Magazine in LA/US and to the London Based IC Publications The Middle East Magazine and Persian Heritage Magazine.

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