At last night’s Closing Night Awards Ceremony, the 6th Annual Noor Iranian Film Festival (NIFF) — a non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization that educates the non-Iranian community about the culture and heritage of Iranians through the medium of cinema — honored the only Emmy®-winning (“House of Saddam”), Oscar-nominated (“House of Sand and Fog”) Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo with the ’13 NIFF Achievement Award. The award was presented by veteran movie producer Hawk Koch, current president of the Producers Guild of America and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Other industry luminaries who honored Aghdashloo with speeches and video messages included actress Frances Fisher (“Titanic,” “House of Sand and Fog,” “Unforgiven”), renowned Iranian journalist and author Homa Sarshar, actor and husband Houshang Touzie (“Argo”), director/producer/writer Alex Holmes (“House of Saddam”) and director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight,” “The Nativity Story”).
Aghdashloo says, "The Noor Film Festival is an incredible educational tool for Iranians and non-Iranians alike. We have such a rich cultural heritage that goes far beyond the stereotypes of Iran that are constantly seen in the news media. I am so pleased to be honored by the festival so that we can work together to raise awareness about the multi-faceted beauty of the Persian culture through cinematic exploration."
Festival Co-founder & Director Siamak Ghahremani says, “We were happy to have Shohreh Aghdashloo as the recipient of the 2013 NIFF Achievement Award. Her exemplary talent and her accomplishments in Hollywood are something that the Iranian-American community is very proud of. She is truly a living legend in our community.”
The festival also announced the renaming of the NIFF Achievement Award to the Reza Badiyi Achievement Award, in honor of the late, renowned Iranian-born television director Reza Badiyi (“The Incredible Hulk,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Mission Impossible,” “Baywatch”), who received the festival’s first Achievement Award in 2009.
NIFF also presented ten awards for its 2013 line-up of competition films. Each film featured a theme about Iran and/or Iranian talent, either in front of or behind the camera. Over 350 celebrities, VIPs, filmmakers and distinguished guests were in attendance. The red carpet Awards Ceremony was held at the Skirball Cultural Center (2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90049) at 7:00 p.m. The ceremony was hosted by Nadine Rajabi.
Other distinguished guests from the Iranian-American community included: festival co-founder and actor Anthony Azizi (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Lost”); actor Shaun Toub (“Homeland,” “Iron Man,” “The Kite Runner,” “Crash”); actor Navid Negahban (“Homeland,” “The Stoning of Soraya M”); actress Nazanin Boniadi (“Homeland,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “General Hospital”); “Shahs of Sunset” cast members Asa Soltan, Reza Farahan, Mercedes Javid; actor Reza Safai (“Circumstance”); actor Omid Abtahi (“Ghost Whisperer”); actor Nico Guilak (“Chuck”); actor Ali Saam (“Argo”), and many more.
Screenings were held from October 18th – 23rd at the Laemmle Music Hall (9036 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills CA 90211). The 2013 event was presented by festival co-founder, director and producer Siamak Ghahremani and sponsored Pars Equality Center, Javanan Magazine, Radio Javan and KIRN 670AM.
2013 NIFF winners are as follows:
Audience Favorite: “Snow on Pines” by director Payman Maadi
Best Feature Film: “Filly Brown” by directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos
Best Feature Film Director: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud for “Chicken with Plums”
Best Documentary: “A Survivor from Magadan” by director Aref Mohammadi
Best Documentary Director: Nahid Persson Sarvestani for “My Stolen Revolution”
Best Story/Idea: “A Survivor from Magadan” by director Aref Mohammadi
Best Short Film: “Dimensions” by director Neysan Sobhani
Best Short Film Director: Parish Rahbar for “Fade”
Best Animation:“Pepe and Lucas”by director Mo Davoudian
Best Animation Director:Mo Davoudian for “Pepe and Lucas”
A full list of the films can be found on NIFF's website.
Official Selection highlights at this year’s festival included “The Gardener” by award-winning exile Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (“Kandahar,” “Gabbeh”); “Chicken with Plums” by Marjan Setrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (“Persopolis”); “Filly Brown” by Youssef Delara (“Snap,” “Bedrooms”); winner of the 2013 Cinefondation Award at Cannes Film Festival, “Needle” by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh; and “Silk” directed by Catherine Dent (“The Mentalist,” “The Shield”).
Past standout films at the festival include “A Separation,” directed by Asghar Farhadi—the first Iranian film to win the Oscar® for Best Foreign Film, and 2011 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award-winning film, “Circumstance,” by director Maryam Keshavarz.
This year’s jury included: Iranian American actor/producer Marshall Manesh (“The Big Lebowski,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At The World’s End,” “How I Met Your Mother”); actor/producer/director Dennis Haysbert (“ 24,” “The Unit,” “Jarhead”); and Iranian cinematographer Farajallah Heidari (“Nasredeen Shah: Cinema Actor,” “Avaz e Ghoo,” “Zane Ziadi”).
Past jury members have included prominent industry VIPs: Frances Fisher, Rainn Wilson, Brooke Adams, Esai Morales, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Reza Badiyi, Bai Ling, Omid Djalili, Ever Carradine, Natasha Henstridge, Maz Jobrani, Corey Feldman, Max Martini, Kami Asgar, Harry J. Lennox, Shaun Toub, Kyle Secor, Habib Zargarpour, Tony Plana, Kristoff St. John, Homa Sarshar, Navid Negahban and Behrouz Vossoughi
The winning films will travel on to Daytona Beach (Feb. 14 - 21, 2014) and San Diego (Apr. 26-27, 2014), with additional stops in Seattle, Washington DC, New York and San Francisco (dates TBD).
Launched in 2007 as the only Iranian film competition outside of Iran, NIFF’s popularity continues to grow. This year’s festival saw the largest participation in Noor history, hosting 35 officially selected films from filmmakers across the globe. Iranian film has risen to the international spotlight in recent years due to emerging politics. Independent Iranian films that have earned accolades often result in their filmmakers going into exile to escape the governmental regime.
About Shohreh Aghdashloo
Aghdashloo is not only the first Iranian actress to successfully crossover into mainstream Hollywood cinema, but she is also the first to receive an Emmy® Award [Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie] for her work in “House of Saddam” (2008) and an Academy Award nomination [for Best Supporting Actress] for her work in “House of Sand and Fog” (2003). Her acting career began in the late 1970s in her homeland of Iran where she starred in a number of prominent and award-winning films. After leaving her country during the Islamic Revolution and completing her education in England, she relocated to Los Angeles to pursue her love of acting. Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, she worked tirelessly to solidify herself as a serious actress, having to overcome Hollywood’s difficult climate of embracing performers of Middle Eastern descent. She has since gone on to have a prolific and successful career on both the stage and in TV and film. In 2010, she received the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) Career Achievement Award. Recently, she filmed director Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” and “The Last Knights” opposite Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen. Her autobiography, The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines is on sale now.
A non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization, the Noor Iranian Film Festival (NIFF) was created to shed light, or ‘noor,’ on Persian culture, helping to express the beauty of a culture that is commonly misperceived due to its portrayal in the media. In 2005, Iranian-born Siamak Ghahremani co-founded the festival (with actor Anthony Azizi), and the inaugural international event occurred in 2007. Two years of planning and orchestration were required due to this being the first competition Iranian Film Festival outside of Iran, as well as the first Iranian-American Red Carpet event. The mission for the festival is to educate the non-Iranian community about the culture and heritage of Iranians around the world through the medium of cinema. Not without challenges, the festival supports filmmakers whose voice cannot be heard inside of Iran and around the world.
For seven days, the NIFF hosts premieres, networking events, and panel discussions, culminating in theclosing nightAwards Ceremony held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California. The event is also dedicated to cultivating and promoting Iranian-American talent in Hollywood. Screenings are held at the Laemmle Music Hall(9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California).