In our development of the project, we met Mr. DARYUSH SHOKOF, an Iranian activist, artist and filmmaker. At the time, Mr. SHOKOF completed the filming of the first films which deal with the current events of the Islamic Republic since the elections of June 2009. The films “Iran Zendan” and “Hitler’s Grave” were of historic proportions, these were not just films, but rather a way to communicate what is occurring behind the closed doors and what has never been seen outside of Iran. With such films, we held the power of free speech in our hands and would be able to bring this message to the world. So we put all efforts to bring attention to this most urgent matter, the team from SHOOT FOR CHANGE with the team from Berlin from Mr. SHOKOF and to bring the films to US for the first screenings. The screenings were to take place at the same time as the 31st Anniversary was approaching on February 11th, 2010, when the Iranian citizens who support democracy and peace overthrew the Iranian Regime.
Through the month of January we worked endlessly, tirelessly and through many sleepless nights. The importance of this message was clear. The people of Iran are suffering deeply, their voices can not be heard and they can not be seen. But they are there and they are asking for our help to bring attention to their suffering. Peace and nonviolence to them is a privilege and should not be so. The people of Iran just want freedom and democracy and to have the basic human rights that we all have.
As SHOOT FOR CHANGE continued to reach out to Iranian students, anonymous photos were sent to us, which indicated that we were reaching quiet far. At the same time, Mr. SHOKOF and his team were preparing for arrival in New York City and Los Angeles, where the films were accepted to be presented at Columbia University, UCLA and we were scheduling screenings at several theater locations.
February 14th, 2010: The first screening takes place at the Anthology Film Archives Theater in New York City, where humanitarians, Iranian people and people of all cultures who related to the films and the message attended.
February 13th, 2010-February 16th, 2010: The Team Arrives in New York City: Ms. TAIES FARZAN (Lead Actress of “Hitler’s Grave”), Mr. HASAN DEMIRCI (Producer/Actor of Iran Zendan),
Mr. SHAHIN SHOKOOFANDEH (Producer of “Iran Zendan” and “Hitler’s Grave” )
February 16th, 2010 & February 17th, 2010: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and UCLA welcome the team to present the films and for a panel discussion
The First film “HITLER’S GRAVE” is to bring awareness to the global problem of “racism” and to be viewed from a positive and optimistic perspective to help for the future of mankind and to build better, healthier, and much more constructive societies to live in peace. The film pinpoints many acute issues facing world problematic themes from religions to freedom and most specifically the right of women in such most fundamentalist societies as Iran. The film shows how barbarically people have been tortured, and or even raped or died for their peaceful protests against the results of the election that has been proved to the watching eyes of the world to have been rigged in favor of the extreme fundamentalist Regime currently running Iran. Surprising ending of the film is a homage to mankind, pure sense of respect, love and tolerance for relating to one another.
Ms. FARZAN portrays an Iranian women by the name of Atossa, who leaves Iran in search of 2 promises she made as a last wish to her dying brother. Ms. FARZAN is brilliant in her role, she captures the spirit of a woman who is an original character breaking down the barriers that women of the Middle East have been trying to break for thousands of years. From another perspective, Atossa is that woman in many of us, who come to a point in our lives where the need for self identity and acceptance and liberation is not an option but a necessity. The other two key character in the film are played by the legendary Mr. VADIM GLOWNA, who flawlessly plays the role of the Jewish Rabbi and a very strong performance from Mr. PIERRE KIWITT, who plays the role of the German Hotel Manager. What struck me the most about this film is how it touches upon a very sensitive topic of the Muslim, Jewish and German cultural relations.
Each character represents their perspectives in such unique and special way and opens a door to a possibility of seeing the differences between these 3 groups. What we saw at the universities were students of German, Jewish and Iranian cultures sitting next to one another discussing their struggles and their desires to be seen from a different perspective and to be forgiven for the mistakes made by their predecessors. What I saw was the power of a film to translate into reality and to speak on the behalf of all these people asking for change and to show how the future can be.The Second Film we screened at the universities was “IRAN ZENDAN” a film with such pure, raw power and brutal reality that to describe the scenes of the film I am unable. The film focuses on the current situation in Iran and how the political prisoners are treated by the government in the prisons. This is the first film to present and show such a topic. The conditions of how the film was made, the labor and the passion of every individual involved in the project is felt at every scene.
“IRAN ZENDAN” was screened at Columbia University and UCLA, after the screening we opened the panel for discussion with the students. Clearly this film is a very personal subject matter to many people, we heard stories of families being in the prisons and of not being able to even communicate by phone or email. But the power of the film is undeniable; it is fearless and shows the reality of millions of people in Iran as they struggle each day to communicate to the world that just want the same human rights as we all have. The same situations are occurring in many parts of the world and not just Iran, where humanity of people who want freedom is disrespected due to greed and power. This film speaks to the world.
I would like to thank DARYUSH SHOKOF, ANTONIO AMENDOLA, HASAN DEMIRCI and SHAHIN SHOKOOFANDEH for your guidance and support through this project. I would especially like to thank TAIES FARZAN, it was a great honor for me to present this message and stand with you and show the possibility of how we as Jewish and Iranian women can and will work together for the better of the future generations to come.
For more information about the films and DARYUSH SHOKOF