Last night I had the opportunity to show my film ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING in San Francisco. The film chronicles my brother Alex’s return to Iran with his American wife Heather to have a traditional Persian wedding. This was the first Community Cinema screening that I attended and it was incredible to return to my hometown for this experience. The room was packed with many familiar faces but most notably, an overwhelming amount of Iranian-Americans in attendance.
Though the film has many universal themes––such as being of mixed identity or in a multi-cultural marriage––it was amazing to see the Iranian-American crowd take in the small nuances of the film that others missed when the film screened in other art house venues around the country. I also had the unique experience of seeing the film with some of my family in the audience––my father and stepmother were both there and brought along other extended family members. Although they have seen the film, it was the first time that I have screened it with them amongst an audience. For me, this was an interesting experience because not only is this film really personal on many levels, but there is a very tense scene where Heather’s father and his wife meet my father and his wife for the first time.
The cordial dinner meeting quickly turns from polite to not so polite as the focus of the conversation shifts to Iran/U.S. past and current politics. This is one of the most important scenes of the film for me that clearly shows the tensions that exist between Americans and Iranians today and allowed me to weave archival history into the film in a seamless manner. However, it was quite an experience to be in the room with my family and others while this was playing!
The audience was very much a part of this intimate scene as they laughed and verbally let out signs of discomfort. All in all, last night was a really special experience for me. After the last several years of putting this film together, I really felt like people in the audience got the subtle nuances that I was hoping to get across about being of mixed identity and carrying the weight of two countries in political turmoil. Iranians seemed to appreciate being able to connect with parts of Iran that they fondly remember and Americans seemed to appreciate being invited along on this intimate journey with Alex and Heather to experience Iran through their own eyes. My hope is that people left the screening with a slightly different perspective of Iran than they walked in with and that this will contribute to paving the way for improved relations between Iran and the United States.
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