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The Seventh Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies: Toronto, Canda, Jul 31-Aug 3


(The International Society for Iranian Studies)

Park Hyatt Hotel, Toronto, Canada

July 31st - August 3rd, 2008



Held at the Park Hyatt Toronto from July 31st to August 3rd 2008, the Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies will bring to Toronto approximately 250 scholars from various parts of the world for the presentation f their current research on Iran. This is the largest international gathering of scholars who study, teach and write on Iran.




The following cultural events will take place during the biennial conference: 


Persian Trilogy
Commemorating the Millennium of the Shahnamah, a Masterpiece of Classical Persian Poetry and Cosmopolitanism


To commemorate the millennium of the Shahnamah, a masterpiece of classical Persian poetry and cosmopolitanism completed in 1010 A.D., the Toronto Initiative for Iranian Studies and the International Society for Iranian Studies are staging a unique multimedia and musical performance. This innovative event brings onto the same stage Morshed Valiollah Torabi, Maestro JoAnn Falletta, and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) for the performance of Behzad Ranjbaran's Shahnamah-inspired Persian Trilogy. Morshid Torabi's recitation of the Shahnamah, which is often performed in traditional settings in coffeehouses, will be placed in the intervals of the three organically-rlated symphonic segments of the Persian Trilogy.  By fusing Morshid Torabi's recitation of the Shahnamah with a TSO orchestral performance conducted by Maestro JoAnn Falletta, this event will bring into full harmony aspects of the Persian performing arts that have never before shared the same stage. With affinities to traditional pardah-khani (scene narrating), the visual impact of this symphonic performance of this masterpiece of Persian classical literature will be further enhanced by the projection of miniatures depicting the dramatic scenes involving the Seven Passages of Rostam, Simorgh and the Education of Zal, and the Blood of Siyavash. This combination of naqali, pardeh-khani, and orchestral performance is unprecedented and unique. The innovative fusion of textual, musical and artistic elements is expected to set a new paradigm for the performance of and reception of the Shahnamah.


The Shahnamah Millennium Symphonic Concert is scheduled for Saturday, 2 August 2008, in Roy Thompson Hall, the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Concurring with the Seventh Biennial Conference of the International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS), Ariana Barkeshli is Artistic Director of the 2008 Biennial and this unique musical event.


For ticket information, please visit here.


For more information about the composer Behzad Ranjbaran, please visit his web site.



Film Festival


The International Society of Iranian Studies is proud to present a powerful collection of films under the general theme of "Redefining the Self."  This theme is broadly construed so as to include a wide range of topics from the contestation of gendered or sexual roles, to the reimagining of violence and individual (often women's) resistances to it.  Subjects range from the seemingly frivolous, such as cosmetic surgery, to the deadly serious, such as murder.  To celebrate the 40 years since the founding of ISIS, we hope to honour the rich cultural history of Iranian cinema by looking forward to the exciting work that is being produced by the current and emerging generation of Iranian directors.




A Few Days Later Niki Karimi, 2006.  78 minutes

Niki Karimi's second feature film traces the gradual unfolding of Shahrzad's (Karimi herself) emotional upheaval as she makes the life-altering decision of ending her relationship with her long-term boyfriend, Mahmood, with whom she is raising a son.


Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame.  Hana Makhmalbaf, 2007.  82 minutes

Hana Makhmalbaf, youngest daughter of the famed Mohsen Makhmalbaf, uses Bamian,  the Afghan town in which the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddha statues, as the setting for this film.  Makhmalbaf's protagonist is a little girl with an indomitable spirit who fights all odds to attend a girls' school across the river.  This film explores the strength and mettle of an Afghan girl struggling for normalcy in a violent and terrifying time.


Kandelus Gardens.  Iraj Karimi,  2006. 86 Minutes

This film follows three travelers, Bijan, Ali and Said as they embark on a search for the graves of their two friends, Kaveh and Aban.  Kaveh and Aban's love story drives the characters' search for love and inner peace.


Fireworks Wednesday.  Asghar Farhadi, 2006. 102 Minutes

It is the last Tuesday of the year and the city is immersed in pre-Norooz activities. This film follows the life and routine of a typical middle-class family on the eve of the new year.


Men at Work. Mani Haghighi, 2006.  75 Minutes

Four old friends notice a big rock beside the road and are tempted to move it. Gradually, more and more people join the group and contemplate this dilemma, but nobody can come up with a viable plan.  Finally, they all leave the scene except for one person who remains behind, mulling over the problem.  His friends return to look for him and miss the moment for which they have all been waiting: the movement of the rock.


Twenty fingers. Mania Akbari, 2004. 72 Minutes

Akbari explores the emotional journeys couples embark upon in their relationships.  The film features the same two actors who appear as different characters in seven vignettes, and whose problems are revealed through a series of altercations. Some of the issues that arise are specific to women's cultural and social place in a contemporary Iranian context, while others can be "translated" to any cultural context as they revolve around questions of adultery, abortion and jealousy.



Kodam Esteghlal? Kodam Piroozi? Masud Dehnamaki

Dehnamaki offers an engaging view into Iran's love affair with the game of soccer, and outlines the fierce competition between the top two teams Esteghlal (Blue) and Piroozi (Red).  The film also offers a critique of the poverty and other social ills among Iranian youth by examining the deaths of 7 soccer fans during a highly publicized match between Iran and Japan in 2005.


Red Card. Mahnaz Afzali, 2007. 74 Minutes

This documentary follows one of the most controversial criminal cases in Iran in which Shahla Jahad, the long-time lover of famed Iranian soccer player, Nasser Khani, is arrested and accused of murdering his wife.  Afzali manages to capture some remarkable moments on film: actual court sessions and personal interviews with both Khani and Jahad which make us question the real culprit in this case.


Murderer or Murdered? Mahvash Sheikholeslami, 2005. 26 Minutes

A daring documentary, filmed in an Iranian prison, focuses on six women who are on death row for the murder or attempted murder of their respective spouses.  The compelling interviews that make up the film reveal heart-wrending stories of women's abuse, and of their resistance through violence.


Nose, Iranian Style. Mehrdad Oskouei, 2005. 52 Minutes

Oskouei offers us a glimpse into one of the paradoxes of life under the Islamic Republic: a country where the official rhetoric discourages a pre-occupation with the aesthetic, which leads the world in rhinoplasty with an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 surgeries a year.  Oskouei uses humour to consider a very serious phenomenon and question the cultural and political direction of a society that on the one hand eschews Western culture, and on the other, shapes itself (or its noses) in its image.


The Birthday. Daisy Mohr and Negin Kianfar, 2006.  63 Minutes

Daisy Mohr and Negin Kianfar offer an insightful look into the legal and emotional implications of transsexual operations in Iran.  Although homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in Iran, it is not illegal to undergo a sex change procedure.  The main character in this documentary is a male-to-female transsexual who has to come to terms with her new female identity in a cultural and social context as well as a political and religious context as she now has to wear the hijab in accordance with Iranian law.


Wating to be Stoned: Story of Maokkarrameh.  Mahboubeh
Abbasgholizadeh,  2007. 30 Minutes


Travelogue, Mahnaz Mohammadi, 2006.  40 Minutes

Mahnaz Mohammadi documents the various stories of Iranian immigrants who choose to leave their homeland in search of a better life abroad.  This film offers a glimpse into modern-day Iranian society as Mohammadi represents the challenges and complications Iranians face around contemporary gender roles, the illegality of homosexuality and the disenchantment of a generation of young people.


Say No to the draft of protection of family

Meydaan Group, 2007.  30 Minutes


For further information about the film festival, please visit:


For additional information about the International Society for Iranian Studies, the program for the biennial conference, the cultural and art events during the conference, the book exhibit, and registration, please visit:




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