A Week with Rakhshan Bani-E'temad at MELC

Submitted by Rick Aguilar on

By Bahar Saadat

From October 31 to November 4, 2023, the events of "Teller of Truth: Women, Cinema, Freedom," planned by Dr. Naghmeh Samini and Dr. Aria Fani, unfolded, including film showings, a class visit, and a screenwriting workshop. For these events, MELC’s Persian and Iranian Studies program warmly welcomed Rakhshan Bani-E'temad, a premier Iranian film director whose storytelling prowess has illuminated the global film landscape. Bani-E'temad's journey from Iranian cinema to the heart of the academy serves as a testament to the captivating power of her art.

Two of Bani-E’temad’s outstanding films, Our Time and Under the Skin of the City, were screened at the Henry Art Gallery. Following each showing, a Q&A session and a chat between Samini and Bani-E'temad enriched the audience's experience.

On November 2, Dr. Naghmeh Samini’s course on the “Middle East through Cinema” received a visit from Bani-E'temad, who has been recognized for her impactful portrayal of women's issues in film. Students engaged in a discussion with Bani-E'temad, with the majority of questions and reflections centering around themes of gender and women in Iranian cinema. She said, "I don't see a reason to divide genders, and I don't believe in it. I support young filmmakers regardless of their gender; there's no need to separate women from men." Following Bani-E’temad's discussion of the prevalent issues in Iranian society and their portrayal in her films, students shared insights into cinema from their own countries, such as Turkiye and Saudi Arabia, revealing intriguing similarities in social issues across the Middle East. In the end, Bani-E'temad emphasized that, "As a woman of my generation, I have fulfilled my responsibilities through my films, presenting a poignant reflection on life and social criticism."

On November 4, Dr. Samini and Rakhshan Bani-E‘temad co-taught a Persian screenwriting workshop at UW Bothell. Bani-E‘temad emphasized research in crafting socially-focused cinema, guiding students in writing a screenplay for a five-minute short film based on personal experiences. Following the workshop, attendees had the opportunity to view Mainline, another film by Bani-E'temad, and ask her questions. As the week with Rakhshan's art came to an end, we bid farewell, wishing for more films that will continue to touch our hearts with her stories.

We express our sincere thanks to MELC’s Persian and Iranian Studies program; to our co-sponsors the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, Peyvand NPO, Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, Department of Comparative History of Ideas and Department of Cinema and Media Studies; and to all involved in organizing the enriching "Teller of Truth: Women, Cinema, Freedom" event.