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A Winning View of Democracy from Iran

By Jeff Baron, Staff Writer,, Washington

Video Challenge winner had to leave his country to deliver his message

In a way, Farbod Khoshtinat has been preparing for the Democracy Video Challenge for years, which would help explain why the 21-year-old Iranian is the 2010 winner for the Near East and North Africa region.


Khoshtinat, also known as Fred, has been making videos since his early teens, when a stop-motion animated short of his won prizes in national competitions for student filmmakers. He grew up in Tehran and studied cinema in high school and college. He was also active in Tehran's underground music scene; his videos include a popular one for Iranian hip-hop artist Hichkas, and he edited the music videos for a feature film about the Iranian music underground, No One Knows About Persian Cats.

Khoshtinat said that his work on music videos and other underground, unauthorized short films led to an order by the Iranian government about a year ago that he stop making films. Instead, he said by e-mail, he moved to Malaysia to continue his studies. "I am sure now that I cannot go back to Iran, but here I am safe and sound to work and publicize my art," he said.

He is one of six winners of the Democracy Video Challenge. His powerful winning video, a combination of live action and animation, offers comments on democracy from a prisoner. The government that oppresses its people is depicted as a powerful arm that crushes the stick figures who speak up or need help. With the image of the arm putting a box over a crowd of protesters, for example, the narrator says, "Democracy is not choking the voices so that no harsh word could aggrieve your ears."

In a statement submitted with his video, Khoshtinat calls himself a "freedom fighter" as well as an artist.

"I believe that one of the greatest things about art is that it gives us the ability to see, imagine and feel things in a certain way," he said. "This belief was the main reason I wanted to participate in this challenge, to give the opportunity to the people around the world to see how democracy is practiced in my country, so I visualized it through art; I wanted them to see it through my certain way of visualizing. As a young student who is studying abroad, this was the least thing I could do for my people since we all are in the quest for democracy."

These are the other winners of the Democracy Video Challenge:

- Adhyatmika from Indonesia:
- Joel Marsden from Spain:
- Juan Pablo Patiño Arévalo from Colombia: 
- Anup Poudel from Nepal:
- Yared Shumete from Ethiopia:

The Democracy Video Challenge is a project involving an array of public and private groups: the Center for International Private Enterprise, the International Republican Institute, the International Youth Foundation, the Motion Picture Association of America, NBC-Universal, the National Democratic Institute, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, the Recording Industry Association of America, TakingITGlobal, the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the U.S. Department of State, WME and YouTube.

In its first two years, it has attracted entries from 1,600 people in 110 countries. Thevideos of the 18 finalists were posted on the Challenge's official website, its Facebook page and its official YouTube page. The winners were chosen through online voting via YouTube.

U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.

... Payvand News - 06/29/10 ... --

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