NEW YORK, February 25, 2011 - Asia Society New York opened its film series A Tribute to Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi, in honor of the director who was recently sentenced to a 6-year jail term and a 20-year ban on filmmaking by Iranian authorities, with a screening of The White Meadows (2009), directed by Mohammad Rasoulof and edited by Panahi. The White Meadows follows a boatman traversing a coastal area collecting tears while witnessing local traditional and superstitious practices, some of them brutal and unjust. (Rasoulof also received a 6-year jail term for collaborating with Panahi on a new film.)
In her opening remarks, La Frances Hui, Senior Program Officer of Cultural Programs, read quotes from Panahi's trial defense, which argues that by putting him on trial, the Iranian authorities have put the socially conscious and humanistic Iranian cinema on trial as well.
Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature of Columbia University, and Shahram Karimi, Production Designer of The White Meadows, also spoke to the audience before and after the screening. Dabashi discussed The White Meadows in the context of a long tradition of Iranian allegorical films. He stressed the artistic nature of the work, which should not be reduced to any simplistic anthropological or political readings of the country.
Addressing the open-ended nature of the film, Karimi cited a statement by renowned Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami: "I love cinema. The audience finishes the film." It is up to the audience to interpret the meanings of The White Meadows. During his talk, Karimi also gave insights into how, as a painter, he approached the visually stunning film as if it were a canvas.
Watch a trailer of The White Meadows here.
Asia Society's screening of The White Meadows was co-presented with The Global Film Initiative. A Tribute to Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi series was part of Creative Voices of Islam in Asia, a three-year initiative made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.