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UNDERSTANDING PERSIAN CULTURE THROUGH FILM - An Online Experience

Aditya Monday April 18, 2011

NETPAC and AsiaPacificFilms.com(APF) launched a website this month with a selection of culturally importantIranian films complete, including introductions by Persian film experts andeducational resources. This is a unique opportunity for the public to watch 24narrative feature films, documentaries and short Iranian films. Also streaming is an hour-long symposium on the theme of “Understanding Persian Culture through Film”. Interviews, essays, and a bibliography is offered as educational resources.  There is an on-line forum so viewers can add their ideas and questions about the films after viewing them. 

The films were presented free to the international public for six weeks until April 7, 2011 atwww.asiapacificfilms.com/persianfilms through a grant from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute is a non-profit organization which supportscultural and educational activities that bring to light the richness anddiversity of Persian culture (http://www.roshan-institute.org/).

Focusing on four key themes related to Persian culture and society, each film bears witness tothe dynamism and versatility of modern Iranian cinema and ancient Persian culture. Each film explores one or more of these four themes: Persian Film History, Ordinary People’s Experiences that are Culturally Specific and Universal, Contemporary Society as Seen in the City, and Women in Film and Society.

This online experience was produced by NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) and one of their partners, AsiaPacificFilms.com, which offers access to over 500 award winning films from Asia and the Pacific. Introductions to all 24 films and the panel discussion were recorded at Shangri La, The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

President of Asia Pacific Films.com, Jeannette Hereniko says, "This international digital project created a rare opportunity for the public to gain insights about an ancient culture through outstanding films, talented filmmakers and accomplished Persian film experts. I am grateful to NETPAC members throughout the region for their cooperation."

Experts and scholars featured on the site include NETPAC Board member Mohammad Attebai – film producer, distributor and journalist, who heads Iranian Independents, a company that promotes Iranian films internationally. As a producer, Attebai’s credits include the award winning The Circle. Author of International Presentation of Iranian Cinema: 1979-2004 and senior editor of Film International from 1997 to 2001. Attebai has overseen the screening of Iranian films at international festivals for Farabi Cinema Foundation. He is currently the Iranian member of the European Documentary Network, as well as a representative of Network for Promotion of Asian Cinemain Iran. Mohammad curated many of the 24 Iranian films that are streaming andis ‘host’ of the ‘Understanding Persian Culture through Film’ online experience. He introduces 6 of the films streaming online and is a participantin the panel discussion. 

Other film curators of the films streaming on the Persian films website includes Founder and President of NETPAC, Aruna Vasudev, who acquired permission from iconic Iranian filmmaker, Dariush Mehrjui, to stream 8 of his famous feature films. NETPAC Board membersPhilip Cheah also contributed to the film curation.NETPAC member, Teo Swee Leng, is Acquisitions Manager of AsiaPacificFilms.com and played an important role in the success of this project.

NETPAC members who are experts in Persian culture and cinema participated in the project with film introductions and development of unique educational resources. This included: Dr. Wimal Dissanayake - Professor, Academy of Media and Director of the Intercultural Studies Program, University of Hawai’i and the East-WestCenter and Alissa Simon __– Palm Springs Film Festival Senior Programmer, international film festival consultant, and film reviewer for the trade magazine Variety.  

The films are available to view on a subscription basis of $8.99 a month forindividuals. Universities and libraries can license the films for three years. For more information on film subscription for universities and libraries write to jhereniko@asiapacificfilms.com.

 

by Raman Chawla

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