Documentary on Iranian artists, Pearls on the Ocean Floor, screens at LACMA

Last Thursday, July 22, Farhang Foundation and The Art of the Middle East Council organized a special screening of Robert Adanto’s much anticipated new documentary, Pearls on the Ocean Floor, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

In conjunction with the museum’s installation, Yek, Do, Se: Three Contemporary Iranian Artists, which features the works of Samira Alikhanzadeh, Yassaman Ameri, and Bahman Jalali, Pearls on the Ocean Floor played to a packed Bing Theater at the LACMA.

Comprised of compelling interviews with some of today’s most highly regarded artists within Iran and its Diaspora, this documentary not only examines their viewpoints but also their works, which often boldly challenge social mores, gender stereotypes, and religious oppression through a variety of media, from traditional paintings to cutting edge photography.

While focusing on the emotionally charged works of artists such as Afsoon, Haleh Anvari, Gohar Dashti, Parastou Forouhar, Shadi Ghadirian, Afshan Ketabchi, Pooneh Maghazehe, Malekeh Nayiny, Shirin Neshat, Leila Pazooki, Sara Rahbar, Bahar Sabzevari, Taravat Talepasand, and Shadi Yousefian, Pearls on the Ocean Floor inevitably explores the role that Iran’s tumultuous politics has played in shaping the lives of these women and ultimately their art.

At first glance, one can mistakenly assume Pearls on the Ocean Floor is an academic stud y of the Iranian woman struggling to find her place and express her voice in an oppressive and repressive culture. But where Adanto succeeds most is in moving beyond this traditional look at the ‘Iranian woman’, as he sheds light on the striking differences between each of these artists and delves into the nuanced philosophies and complex circumstances that compel and inspire their work, whether they be politics, religion, revolution, war, sexuality, isolation, separation, or dual identities as Iranian expatriates.

Set to a subtle but hypnotic original soundtrack composed by Steve Nalepa, Adanto’s documentary moves at a fast, gripping pace that matches the intensity of its subjects and their art.

Farhang Foundation is pleased to have been a co-organizer of the screening of Pearls on the Ocean Floor, as it was an enriching evening that celebrated Iranian artists living both in and out of Iran, while offering a window into Iranian culture and heritage.

In case you missed the LACMA screening, Pearls on the Ocean Floor will be presented at the Pacific Arts Center in Los Angeles on August 8 and future screenings are being planned in San Francisco.

For more information on upcoming events organized or sponsored by Farhang Foundation, please visit www.farhang.org.

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