It was a full house at the Chicago Cultural Center this past weekend at the Community Cinema screening of ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING, co-presented by Pasfarda Arts & Cultural Exchange, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and WTTW Channel 11.
Set against the turbulent relationship between the United States and Iran, Iranian-American filmmaker Marjan Tehrani captures the struggle and excitement of her brother Alex and his bride Heather as they plan a Persian Islamic wedding in Iran. Many of the people in attendance were Iranian-Americans and very eager to discuss the various cross-cultural issues in the film with other Americans and share stories of their unique and common experiences. It was truly amazing to see the film with an audience!
One scene that particularly stuck out was when the parents of the bride and groom meet for the first time and the conversation turns towards politics. When Alex and Marjan’s father attempts to diffuse the tension by offering more food and wine, the audience erupted with laugher. The film’s approach of weaving tension and humor, travel footage with history and photojournalism into the documentary made it easy for anyone to understand the complex story and culture of Iran. The panel discussion that followed was both cathartic and informative. Panelists included filmmaker Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, who taught in Tehran prior to moving to the United States in 1983; graduate student Aria Moazzen, who grew up in the United States and neither he nor his family have returned to Iran since leaving; University of Illinois at Chicago professor Norma Moruzzi, who is also an “arus” (bride), having married an Iranian and has spent time in Iran.
The panelists cleared up some of the misconceptions some Americans have about life in Iran. One attendee expressed surprise to see so many women in the film not wearing headscarves. Professor Moruzzi, who has written extensively about the topic, explained the wide variety of viewpoints and religious practice that coexist peacefully in Iran. The event ended with many audience members wanting to continue the conversation. It was at least another hour of excited discussion in the reception area before the Cultural Center staff could turn out the lights! Afterwards, I had a chance to speak with Shermin Kruse, co-founder and vice president of Pasfarda Arts & Culture Exchange, about her experience as an Iranian-American and what resonated with her about the film. Check out the video below.
- Naomi Walker, ITVS Regional Outreach Coordinator, Chicago
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