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Documentary maker honoured for film on LGBTQ in Iran

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Farid Haerinejad’s Out of Iran: Iran’s Unwanted Sons and Daughters, a film sponsored by Radio Zamaneh, won the best documentary prize at the Noor Iranian Film Festival for 2014. The festival was held in October in Los Angeles, and the film can be viewed here on the Radio Zamaneh website.

The Noor Iranian Film Festival (NIFF) describes its mission on its website as bridging the gap between Iranian and non-Iranian communities as well as promoting Iranian-American talent in Hollywood.

Farid Haerinejad was born in Tehran and pursued his studies in Baku and Montreal. As a filmmaker and editor, he has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and was the former editor in chief of Radio Zamaneh. A citizen of Canada, he is now living in Germany. He has won several prizes including Berlin’s Cinema for Peace Award for Justice and the New York International Television & Film Silver Award, and he was nominated for Canada’s Gemini Award (now known as the Canadian Screen Awards for film and television).

Out of Iran: Iran’s Unwanted Sons and Daughters documents the experiences of LGBTQ asylum seekers from Iran.
The following is an interview with Farid Haerinejad by Ramtin Shahrzad on the occasion of his film’s success at NIFF.

Why did you become interested in the subject of Iranian LGBTQ in Turkey and other countries?
FH: I was first introduced to Iranian LGBTQ issues in the summer of 2006 when I went to Iran on a working trip for CBC which led to the making of the film: Revealed in IranEight months later, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking at Columbia University when he denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. I believe the film was instrumental in prompting that discussion and that particular response.

At the time, the Iranian LGBTQ community was not so active. They were just beginning to become more organized with the dissemination of information. In Revealed in Iran I tried to reflect some of these unprecedented advances. As some of the film’s subjects considered leaving Iran in the hope of finding acceptance in a different society, I was struck by the question of whether their dreams really would come true out of Iran. This curiosity led to the making of Out of Iran. I would like to thank all the LGBTQ friends that agreed to appear in the film, as well as the LGBTQ community that showed interest in it.

Homosexuality is considered a crime in Iran. In your film you also focus on social and family issues and how these issues marginalize LGBTQ in Iran. What weighs more heavily on the lives of LGBTQ in Iran, society or family?
FH: I think all these layers are important: laws, society and family. With no protection from the law, society gives itself the right to treat LGBTQ with violence. Therefore, the only place left to offer them some protection is the family. But many are turned away by their families and face a very sad fate. Only those members of the LGBTQ in Iran who are accepted by their families can find some degree of happiness. The family is crucial in facing the obstacles presented for them by society and the judicial system. I hope families read more about about sexual identity and inform themselves so they can understand their children better, rather than turn them away.

How do you see the future for the LGBTQ in Iran?
FH: There is always hope for change and progress. When I look back over the eight years during which I got to know the LGBTQ community, there has already been lots of change.

Eight years ago, there were no organizations supporting this community; now there are several organizations and individuals covering LGBTQ issues and producing extensive information. These organizations are also connecting the Iranian community with the larger global LGBTQ community. This is highly beneficial for all of Iranian society.

In the West, a half-century of work to bring about LGBTQ rights has now led to a rapid process of recognition. A similar process is now underway for Iranians. For example, experts in Islamic jurisprudence and Sharia are engaged in analysis and discussions in order to decriminalize homosexuality. I believe there is room to grow and in the near future we are bound to see more progress.

Are you working on any new projects?
FH: I have just finished two feature-length documentaries: Out of Iran and Behind the High Walls, which looks at the Iranian political prisoners of the 1980s and their memories. I am a bit burnt out and need to take a break but I am also mulling over some new ideas.


Watch Out of Iran: Iran's Unwanted Sons and Daughters here: