Farbod Khoshtinat wants to help underground artists in Iran
"Art creates countries," says Farbod Khoshtinat, the Iranian winner
of the Democracy Video Challenge. He says he hopes to help other
Iranian artists get some recognition, too.
Washington - At age 22, Iranian filmmaker Farbod Khoshtinat has
encouraging options for where he will work and what he will do.
"I have the connections, both in Europe and Australia, so I'm not
worried about that," he said.
The one thing he says he cannot do is return home to make movies
Khoshtinat was in Washington to accept his prize as one ofsix
winners of the State Department's Democracy Video Challenge. He received his
award from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a September 10 ceremony
at the State Department. The trip also includes stops in New York and Los
Angeles, with opportunities to make still more contacts in the international
film industry. Khoshtinat has a few months left in film school in Malaysia,
where he went to study, he said, after Iranian authorities prohibited him from
pursuing his career at home.
His career is promising: In additionto
his award-winning video, he has worked for directors outside of Iran. He
honed his skills in Tehran's underground art scene, where he played in a rock
band and shot music videos under the name "Fred." He founded Persian's
Underground Cinematic Arts and edited the videos forNo
One Knows About Persian Cats,a
feature film about Tehran's underground music scene by Bahman Ghobadi.
Although he is thinking about the next steps in his career, he
also is focused on Iran, and his goal is to create an online platform where
underground Iranian artists can post their work without censorship for the world
to see. "The first time you come out of Iran, you feel the difference that you
were inside a cube," Khoshtinat said. "We have Internet, but it's totally
different. You cannot feel it. In Malaysia, I can feel that I'm in a global
Farbod Khoshtinat says receiving the Democracy Video Challenge award
gives him more exposure and more of a chance to get his message out.
"Art creates countries. From the beginning, it's really important
for a culture and for the politics," he said. "I'm not a politician - I don't
know anything about it - but what I do know is all about art, so that's the only
thing I can do for my country." The friends he left back in Tehran need the
chance at exposure to the outside world, he added. "I was one in a thousand to
have a chance for this exposure. The other 999, they don't have it."
Khoshtinat said censorship in Iran has created a close-knit,
friendly community of artists who must conspire with one another to commit acts
of self-expression. "We literally all know each other. We are thousands," he
The Tehran underground also is richer, in a way, because its
members cannot succeed professionally there. "We don't work for anyone,"
Khoshtinat said. "And we're just trying to please ourselves and our audience -
that is so important to us. We know we're not going to make any money out of it,
so still we are not commercial, and I think that's a great thing about
The video that won the Democracy Video Challenge prize for
Khoshtinat was a collaboration with not one but many of his fellow Iranians. His
girlfriend, Taraneh Golozar, drew the animation, and the script came from
people's answers to one question he asked them after the disputed June 2009
Iranian presidential election: What is democracy?
"It was [during] the crisis," Khoshtinat said, "so lots of people
were so emotional about it, so poetic about it, and we just selected the best
and we summarized them, and it turned out good. It's a voice of a nation, not
Khoshtinat has a general idea of what he'd like to do next: more
work for other filmmakers so he can finance his own projects. "I'm mostly
interested in art videos because I don't like to be restricted by, for example,
the title of 'drama.' I don't want to be restricted by the title of
'documentary,'" he said. "So, experimental art videos and just throw out what's
in my mind."
Those videos also can be done on small budgets. "That's my
expertise," he said. And they could be shown on YouTube: "My target audience is
the people. No one sees the films in festivals - not the people."
Eventually, yes, he would like to do feature-length movies of his
own. "It's a goal, but I'm a realistic guy," he said.
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.