On Saturday, the world premieres of Joonam, a documentary about an Iranian family with three generations now living in Vermont, and The Persian Version, a colorful but honest dramedy that moves between Iran and New York over several decades, were given.
Noora Niasari’s drama Shayda, about a Persian woman who flees her abusive husband for Australia, made its debut earlier this year at a prestigious independent film festival in Utah.
Their inclusion in the lineup for Sundance comes after massive protests in Iran for four months over Mahsa Amini’s death after she was arrested for breaking the Islamic republic’s strict dress code.
According to the non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights, the crackdown has resulted in the deaths of at least 481 people and the imminent execution of at least 109 others in protest-related cases. Four people have already been executed.
Sierra Urich, director of Joonam, stated that the protesters “are literally putting themselves on the line… I stand in support with them 100 percent.”
Urich stated to AFP, “You can’t speak freely in Iran; they’re imprisoning filmmakers and artists.”
“I can, to a certain extent, speak freely outside of Iran.”
In connection with the protest movement, a number of well-known people from Iran’s film industry have been detained. Jafar Panahi, a well-known filmmaker, was previously found guilty of “propaganda against the system” and sentenced to six months in prison.
While Urich, who was born in the United States, is unable to visit Iran due to security concerns, her film documents her efforts to connect with the country and gain a deeper understanding by learning Farsi and interviewing her mother and grandmother.
In the documentary “Joonam,” Iranian-American filmmaker Sierra Urich conducts interviews with her mother Mitra Sammi-Urich. Photo: AFP She learns about an ancestor’s murder and how her grandmother married a man she met before she was a teenager when she was 14.
While her grandmother is pleased to reflect, her mother is concerned that it would be “very dangerous” to document the family’s past and warns her daughter that “the filmmaker will be the one hanged” in Iran.
“The film is on the international stage heading into Sundance. According to Urich, “I think Iranians are always weighing whether they will be truthful or whether what they will say will cause consequences for people back home.”
“I didn’t really understand this wall of fear that had been built by this authoritarian regime to so many people in Iran, outside of Iran, until my grandmother told the story of her grandfather’s martyrdom.
“My mom was trying to keep that from happening to me.”
“Resilience” tells the story of the rebellious young Iranian-American Leila, played by Layla Mohammadi, who has a strained relationship with her immigrant mother because of her sexual orientation and their apparent divergent perspectives on the role of women.
Both generations of women, however, gain perspective on their complicated heritage as she uncovers the truth about her parents’ experiences in Iran and their departure from the country.
Layla Mohammadi plays Leila, a rebellious young Iranian-American who has a strained relationship with her immigrant mother, in “The Persian Version.” Photo: AFP: “I’m proud to have an Iranian film here at this moment about women,” director Maryam Keshavarz said at the premiere of the film. Cast members wore badges with the protest movement’s slogan “Woman Life Freedom” printed on them in the colors of the Iranian flag.
“I think it shows how resilient people have been over the years, not just now. She stated, “It’s been in the works for ages.”
Women have always fought against society for what they wanted, even before this regime.
They’ve learned to break the rules and find their own way to be free.
Since the release of her debut film, Circumstance, about two adolescent Persian girls who fall in love, Keshavarz has been unable to return to Iran.
Urich still aspires to visit one day, but for the time being, she is observing the protests from afar and hopes that her film can be “a small part of that struggle for freedom.”
According to her, “I think part of why it’s so moving to see what’s happening in Iran right now, and to be here with these other filmmakers” is “a real sense of community, and being able to tell our stories openly.”