Search for Common Ground and the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center present

Women and Youth in Modern Iran: A Film Festival

Please join us for a two-day screening of a selection of Iranian films highlighting the present day realities of women and youth in Iran. Each day concludes with a panel discussion with experts on Iranian cinema. These films display the complexities and the various aspects of Iranian culture from a religious, traditional, and legal point of view. 


April 29: Women in Iranian Films in the Recent Era

8:30am – coffee

8:45am – welcoming remarks

9-10:30am – Café Setare (Moghadam, Saman, 2006, 90 mins): Three women who live in a poor neighborhood in Tehran actively seek a better life in this contemporary slice of Iranian life. Café Setareh focuses on Fariba, Saloomeh, and Moluk in a triptych of warm-hearted, interwoven stories.

10:45am – 12:15pm – Ten (Kiarostami, Abbas, 2005, 90 mins): Ten sequences examine the emotional lives of women at significant junctures. A mother drives around Tehran and has ten separate conversations with several different passengers.

12:15 – 1:00pm – lunch provided by Search for Common Ground

1:00-2:30pm – The May Lady (Bani Etemad, Rakhshan, 1999, 90 mins): A woman edging into middle age must make some tough choices about her life and her work in this drama from Iran. Forugh Kia (Minoo Farshi) is a woman in her early '40s who has reached a crossroads in both her personal and professional lives. Forough is a documentary filmmaker who has been forced by economics to set aside more personal projects in order to accept a commission from a television network to make a simplistic film about "the perfect mother." But Forough has issues of her own about her role as a mother.

2:40-3:27pm – Mrs. President: Political Leadership in Iran (Haeri, Shahla, 2002, 47 mins): In the summer of 2001, 47 Iranian women neither affiliated with nor supported by any political party registered themselves as candidates for the presidential elections. Due to the Guardian Council’s interpretation of a clause in the constitution, none of the women were allowed to run. This documentary presents the thoughts and opinions of six female candidates who agreed to be interviewed, along with the commentary of two female Iranian journalists who cover political developments for magazines in their country.

3:30 – 4:30pm – Panel Discussion with Negar Mottahedeh, Pardis Minuchehr, Mehrangiz Kar, and Milad Pournik (moderator)


April 30: Youth in Iranian Films

8:30am – coffee

9:00 – 10:45am – No One Knows About Persian Cats (Ghobadi, Bahman, 2009, 105 mins): The film follows two young musicians (Ashkan and Negar) as they form a band and prepare to leave Iran shortly after being released from prison. The pair befriends a man named Nader (Hamed Behdad), an underground music enthusiast and producer who helps them travel around Tehran and its surrounding areas in order to meet other underground musicians possibly interested in forming a band and later leaving the country.

11:00am – 12:30pm – Facing Mirrors (Azarbeyjani, Negar, 2011, 88 mins): Set in contemporary Iran, Facing Mirrors is a story of an unlikely and daring friendship that develops despite social norms and religious beliefs. Although Rana is a traditional wife and mother, she is forced to drive a cab to pay off the debt that keeps her husband in prison. By chance she picks up the wealthy and rebellious Edi, who is desperately awaiting a passport to leave the country. At first Rana attempts to help, but when she realizes that Edi is transgender, a dangerous series of conflicts arises.

12:30 – 1:15pm – lunch provided by Search for Common Ground

1:15 – 2:47pm – The Glass House (Rahmanian, Hamid, 2013, 92 mins): The Glass House follows four girls striving to pull themselves out of the margins by attending a one-of-kind rehabilitation center in uptown Tehran. Forget about the Iran that you’ve seen before. With a virtually invisible camera, the girls of The Glass House take us on a never-before-seen tour of the underclass of Iran with their brave and defiant stories: Samira struggles to overcome forced drug addiction; Mitra harnesses abandonment into her creative writing; Sussan teeters on a dangerous ledge after years of sexual abuse; and Nazila burgeons out of her hatred with her blazing rap music.

3:00 – 4:00pm – Panel Discussion with Pedram Partovi and Hamid Rahmanian


  • Negar Mottahedeh

    Associate Professor of Literature, Duke University
  • Pardis Minuchehr

    Director of the Persian Program and Assistant Professor of Persian, George Washington University
  • Mehrangiz Kar

    Former Public Policy Scholar, Wilson Center; Iranian attorney, writer, and activist
  • Milad Pournik

    Communications and Outreach Officer, The World Bank
  • Pedram Partovi

    Assistant Professor, Department of History, American University
  • Hamid Rahmanian

    Filmmaker and graphic artist