By Grace Nasri, Iran Times
Iranian-American filmmaker Justin Mashouf screened his documentary, "Warring Factions," March 25 as part of the annual New York University Shuruq Festival.
"Warring Factions" documents Mashouf's journey to Iran in an effort to better understand the rising tensions between Tehran and Washington and to help bridge the divide between the two cultures.
In a synopsis of "Warring Factions," the film's website says: "As forces in American government and media have fueled the perception of an unavoidable war with Iran, 'Warring Factions' is a call to (dis)arms. An American-born Iranian break-dancer finds cultural awakening by exploring his multi-ethnic roots. Faced with dual nationality in two conflicting countries, he travels to Iran to examine the political issues first-hand while exploring his cultural identity with a group of Iranian b-boys. By combining documentary and studio reenactments, 'Warring Factions' looks at the blurring of world borders, and the looming threat of another war in the Middle East."
Mashouf said he traveled to Iran last year to get footage for a film he hoped would portray Iran in a new and positive light, humanizing Iranians to the outside world, forcing viewers to think critically, and fighting the negativity in the world.
On his return January 13, 2008, however, Mashouf was detained in the Atlanta airport by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers and questioned about his trip and the footage he brought back with him. After almost seven hours of detention and questioning, the officers seized Mashouf's footage for further investigation and then released him.
Mashouf told the Iran Times the DHS returned his footage only after an interview with the FBI and with the help of an attorney.
"I only received my footage back from DHS after working with an attorney and having an interview with the FBI about the details of my trip and my personal religious and political beliefs...."
The Muslim American filmmaker told the Iran Times he stayed in Iran for five weeks capturing footage for his film; it was the second time the Pennsylvania-born filmmaker had been to the country of his father's birth.
Mashouf's Iranian father was born in Tehran; his mother-who is of Irish-German decent-was born in Philadelphia. As for Mashouf, he was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
Mashouf began filming "Warring Factions" in April 2007, capturing his experiences as an Iranian-American exploring both his Iranian and Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world. He said rising international tensions has often cornered him into answering the question, "Where is your loyalty, America or Iran?"
The film, which includes documentary footage as well as studio reenactments, is shot in both Iran and the United States. It documents Mashouf's love for break dancing and the art form as a way of bridging an aspect of American culture with Iranian youth.
During last month's screening, the twenty-four-year-old filmmaker premiered his 70-minute documentary and spoke about his experiences in Iran, his detention by the DHS and the confiscation of his footage on suspicion of terrorism.
When the Iran Times asked Mashouf about the screening, he said, "The screening went well and was attended by well over 100 people, mostly NYU students. The response was great; there were a lot of great questions during the question and answer session regarding my detention by DHS and break dancing in Iran. I spoke with a lot of very excited students after the screening that sincerely enjoyed the film."
Now that he has finished his first documentary, Mashouf said he has begun working on several other projects. "I am currently developing various projects including a follow up to 'Warring Factions' but haven't had the opportunity to tackle them full time," he told the Iran Times.
"My hope is that audiences walk away from seeing my documentary with the hope that Iranians and Americans will be able to work together toward resolving the conflict between their nations," Mashouf told the Iran Times.
"First and foremost, the U.S. has to be willing to sit down for unilateral talks with Tehran without preconditions. The U.S. must also allow Iran to have a healthy role in the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan, both which play a significant role in the Iranian economy and which have substantial refugee populations in Iran. "Washington's treatment of Iran should reflect that of relationships with other industrialized countries rather than that of a rogue state. In return, Iran must give moderate voices a chance for dialogue with the U.S. and its allies and to become more transparent in matters of their judiciary process. The list on both sides is much longer and more complicated but reconciliation has to start somewhere," Mashouf told the Iran Times.
The next big screening of the film will be at the Noor Film Festival in Los Angeles during the first week of May. For more information about the film visit:
About Iran Times: The Iran Times is an independent newspaper with no affiliation with any political party or faction The Iran Times corporation was founded in Washington D.C. in 1970, in accordance with U.S. federal and local regulations: www.iran-times.com
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