Sunday, January 21, 2007

Blind Iranian Women Make Movies

I just came across an interesting article in the ZANAN (Women Magazine) by Fahime Khazr-Heidari who reports of a filmmaking initiative by the Iranian documentarist Mohammad Shirvani. Three years ago Shirvani organized a workshop for the visually impaired Iranian women to teach them the basics of filmmaking. His project was aimed at illustrating that visual impairment is not a handicap but a characteristic. By choosing blind women, he aimed at killing two birds with one stone: first to debunk the notion of blindness as disability; second to challenge the myth of women being the "second sex", and particularly incapacitated in the so called Iranian patriarchy.

Shirvani likens his aspirations for teaching the cinematic language to the blind, to that of Louis Braille. The manifesto of "Camera in Place of the Eye" is written and the cognitive, behavioral and spiritual effects of the camera on the visually impaired are to be studied by psychologists and social scientists active in this field of research.Shirvani hopes to submit the results of these investiations, along with seven short films by 7 blind women, to the WHO (World Health Organization), and to coin a model in the name of Iran.

The stories of each of the filmmaking women that Khazr-Heidari has interviewed are tales of perseverance and resilience. Here is excerpts form what they have to say:

Sara Parto, 28 years old, blind since age of 4:
There was always things that I wanted to express. when I wanted to pursue calligrapgy, it was as if the whole world resisted me. There was no one who accepted that a blind person can have their own style. ... I wanted to do art work in a social context, I wanted to be present in society and communicate with people ... in our society, overall men live much easier than women ... but what is interesting is that my brother is blind too, but the individual's character is more of a determining factor. I had it better than my brother. I went to university but he didn't; I wanted to be in the society and he didn't; I was always freer than he was... I left my parent's house when I was 18 and I have been living independently since then. I have always worked. I started by teaching English and Computer. I even didsecretarial work. ... I always wanted to hold a movie camera but I didn't dare, because of my failure in painting I thought filmmaking was impossible too. But, this experience has proven to me that one can do what one wills, and it is not important whether her work is competitive or not in as far as it is original ...

Banafshe Ahmadi, Afghan refuge; 3 years ago, her family has returned to Kabul. She has a bachelor's degree from Tehran University and is doing graduate studies in Al-Zahra.
The biggest gift that this film has given me is "hope"

Shima Kahe, 18 years old, she loves the mountain, dreams of driving, and hates
people's charity, but laughs at their clumsy attempts to be helpful to her.
See, my imagination of light and colour is like your imagination of angels and daemons.


Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Anyone aiming at backward Talmudic values earns my esteem.

Fighting both macho misogyny and anti-handicapped prejudice: that Mohammad Shirvani dude is a hero!

He’s a good Samaritan in a time of evil Pharisees . . .

bijan said...

It's all good. Thanks!