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Antje Beyen talks about her film "Feminine Breeze: Women and Arts in Iran"


Antje Beyen is a German filmmaker. Her film, Feminine Breeze: Women and Arts in Iran, recently won the best foreign documentary award at Santa Cruz International Film Festival (see report).  We asked Antje to tell us what inspired her to make this film, how her experience was in Iran and finally the reaction to her film in Iran and abroad. Here is what she had to say.




My inspiration


My parents lived for eight years in Iran and Pakistan. When I grew up, we had many visitors from both countries. I heard conversations about great architecture and literature.


When I began working for a German TV in 2001, I was confronted with a rather different image of Iran. It was all about Mullahs, nuclear energy and female suppression.


Over the last 10 years, I have visited more than 50 countries as a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker: I have lived with the Himba tribe in Southern Africa, crossed the Tibetan plateau, and the African Sahara, experiencing first-hand the differences between media descriptions and my own observations.


So, finally I decided to make up my own mind about Iran. I wanted to fill the gap between my childhood stories and the daily media coverage. Being a woman, I was, and still remain, curious about the situation of women in Iran. I read so many reports about suppression of Iranian women, in contrast to my mother’s reports of well-educated and self-confident women.


For me personally, Iran had been enriching to me, culturally speaking. That is why I searched for women who are enriching to the Western society. There must be a reason why so many Iranians are well positioned in Western societies in contras to other nationalities and why many awards go to people from this nationality.


So, I ended up with six women, covered in the documentary, exemplifying how things can work out right.




My experience in Iran


I do not want to give too much information, not to bring anyone in danger.


I got in contact with an Iranian woman who had offered to translate for me. Unfortunately, it turned out she was involved in drugs and was sexually promiscuous and extremely paranoid. She told Ershad, the cultural police, about my project. This was my first shock.


By chance, I met an Azerbaijani family who treated me like her own daughter. Together we visited Kerman, Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd, Mashhad and many more places throughout the country. During this time I became familiar with the Iranian modern life.


Still, I wasn’t sure about the political situation and decided not to involve the family in my project.


I interviewed and phoned the women who are part of the documentary from a hotel. All of them were glad to be part of the project. They expressed their pride to be Iranian. They saw the political problems, but also noted that the Western model is no alternative.


Due to the fact that I had built up a friendship with my guest family, I behaved and dressed like a modern Iranian woman and did not feel threatened on the street. Only the traffic in Tehran was extremely bothering me. The people were really nice.


The life I found behind the front doors was not much different from the life we live in Europe. And the friendship I built up with the three Azeri sisters is still on-going.


I also met Dr Kaveh Afrasiabi in Teheran, who was at the time a political science professor at Teheran University. He gave me new insights about Iranian politics and inspired the segment dealing with the stage director, Pari Saberi. He also assisted me with the post-production translations.



Reaction to the film


One of the sisters visited Germany in January 2006. I gave here a DVD and – beside the fact that she did not know about the project before – she really liked it and thanked me to do the project. The DVDs I sent to the six protagonists didn’t reach them!  Yet, what they saw on my website they liked a lot.


In Germany, I couldn’t find anyone interested in the subject. The German TV, WDR where I am working for, saw no difference in these contributions to a hundreds about German women on TV every day.


I am extremely happy about the positive reaction from Canadian and US audiences as well as festival makers and want to thank them a lot. They really appreciated the work and gave me hope.


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People on festivals were glad to see a perspective of Iranian life that they had not seen before. This week, after the award in Santa Cruz, I got the first invitation to a film festival in Berlin.



Related web site:

Women Filmmakers in Iran


... Payvand News - 5/23/06 ... --

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