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
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
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
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
Still, I wasn’t sure about the
political situation and decided not to involve the family in my
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
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
Reaction to the
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
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.
Filmmakers in Iran
... Payvand News - 5/23/06 ... --