Photo courtesy of Laemmle Charitable Foundation

An award-winning documentary and accompanying photography exhibition will make its way to a local theater this week.

Photographer and filmmaker Fery Malek-Madani will show her photography exhibition “Unexposed Wishes of Teenage Girls in Iran” and documentary film “The Girls” at the Laemmle Tuesday, March 5. The event will be presented by The Iranian American Women Foundation. Both the film and documentary follow the lives of post-Revolution Iranian girls as they document their hopes and dreams.

Malek-Madani was born in Tehran but spent her formative years in Brussels. Far from home, Malek-Madani witnessed the Iranian Revolution from afar. Half a century later, an inquisitive Malek-Madani wondered what the dreams of post-Revolution Iran girls might be.

To document their world through their perspective, the filmmaker put together a team of women of the Iranian diaspora. Together they visited schools in rural and urban Iran, teaching young students photography so that they could capture their dreams and what has prevented them from doing so. Additionally, the students were tasked with explaining their photos in a notebook.

The culmination of this effort is the photography exhibit, which features 40 photographs by Iranian girls who were 12 to 16 years old at the time. Malek-Madani was impressed by the girls’ efforts that she documented the experience.

This project was a personal exercise for myself, too,” she said via email.  “I wanted to verify if these girls are dreaming the same way as I was dreaming at the same age and also my European friends that I met in Brussels at that time. And yes, we all have the same dream, we are all alike, the questions of economy, politics and religion are separating us.”

Due to passport issues, Malek-Madani won’t be able to make her previously scheduled Q and A session for the event but was kind enough to answer some questions for the Daily Press along with Mariam Khosravani from the Iranian American Women Foundation.

What made Santa Monica and the Laemmle a perfect location for this event?


The theatre seemed to show so many movies and documentaries from diverse cultures and communities. It is a great venue to show this very uplifting film. Also, the majority of the Iranian-American community lives in LA and Santa Monica area.

Why should someone take a chance and see this exhibition and documentary?


This film shows another face of Iran that we are not used to seeing in the media, even in the films. The subjects chosen to portray Iran are mainly provocative and political, but in this film you see the true society of Iran in its plurality.

What impressed you the most about these young women you documented?


Their ambitions—they all want to have a high level of education and great professions.  Their gender awareness is also important to note. They know they are discriminated because they are female. They want to change it, but they do not know how. For example, there is no identification to a political figure because of the lack of women in politics in Iran and the absence of rôle model. They have a tremendous amount of generosity, even when that they express that they wish to become a doctor — or famous and rich, they do not forget to mention that they would give their time to those in need.

What was the most difficult part of making this documentary?


In the process of making a documentary, normally you choose a subject then you study it, research, and then you begin to shoot. I had the opposite; I went from the bottom to the top. There was no intention to do this film, the project was to prepare for the exhibition of the pictures taken by these teenagers who put into photographs, their dreams, wishes, obstacles, and the opportunities to realize them. I decided to have the process to be filmed just for my own archives. But once meeting them and hearing their observations, their remarks, I was so impressed by their awareness, their knowledge, and their ambitions. I wanted their voice to be heard.

What actions do you hope audiences take after seeing this documentary?


The next time someone hears of or speaks of Iran, maybe people can conjure up the images of these girls, think of their dreams and aspirations– and maybe even chuckle at what they say, remembering their photographs and the creativity behind them. This is an opportunity to show more understanding — to see a better world; especially, a world without violence.

The exhibit and film takes place March 5th, at the Laemmle, 1332 2nd Street, from 7 p.m. -10 p.m.


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