Iranians have been portrayed on the big screen as pre-Revolution radicals in “Argo,” scary, bare-chested villains in “300” and video game characters come to life in “Prince of Persia.”
While these depictions can be entertaining, they're hardly the only ones out there.
Disseminating alternative perspectives is the goal of the annual Noor Iranian Film Festival. The week-long gathering, which wrapped up its sixth year on Thursday, showcased a wide variety of films by Iranians – ranging from documentaries on Iran-Iraq War veterans who suffered from chemical bomb exposure (“The Skin That Burns”) to feature films about a struggling, young hip-hop artist ("Filly Brown").
In Farsi, "noor" means light, which relates to he festival’s theme of shedding light on Iranian culture and heritage through film.
This year, 2,500 people attended the festival, about 250 people per night, said festival director and co-founder Siamak Ghahremani.
At Thursday’s closing ceremony, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, “The Snow on the Pines” won audience favorite. Shot entirely in black and white, the film, directed by Payman Maadi (who starred in the Oscar-winning "A Separation"), follows an Iranian piano teacher who finds out her husband has been hiding an affair.
“Pepe & Lucas,” an animated short about a fighting angry clown and street mime, took home two Noor awards, for best animation and best animation director (Mo Davoudian).
Documentary “A Survivor from Magadan” also took home two awards, for best documentary and for best story/idea. The film, directed by Aref Mohammadi, tells the story of Ata Safavi, an Iranian who was sentenced to five years in a Russian prison on charges of espionage after fleeing Iran in 1947.
The night culminated with a celebration of actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, the first Iranian actress to be nominated for an Academy Award (supporting actress, 2003's "House of Sand and Fog"); she was the third recipient of the Noor Achievement Award.
“Shohreh is an icon in our community,” Ghahremani said in an interview. “What she has done for Iranians around the world in the TV and film industry is tremendous. It was due time that we honored her.”
Countless presenters, nominees and attendees of Noor credited Aghdashloo for paving the way for Iranians in the film industry.
"'House of Sand and Fog' and 'House of Saddam'? If any of you have a script with the word 'house' in it, this is your actress," said Hawk Koch, president of the Producers Guild of America, when presenting the award to Aghdashloo.
Other notable festival attendees included actress Frances Fisher, who worked with Aghdashloo on "House of Sand and Fog," actor Houshang Touzie, who is Aghdashloo's husband, and Bravo TV show "Shahs of Sunset" stars Asa Soltan Rahmati, Mercedes Javid and Reza Farahan.Twitter: @saba_h