Iran is in Asia – so are 43 other countries.

As I prepare film clips for the 5th week of the “Anatomy of Difference” class I’m teaching in Arts Politics this semester – “A look at Asian cinema” – I wonder how many of my students are aware of the full list of countries on the Asian continent. In preparation for our discussion I will of course include the entire list but wonder which one of the countries will surprise each of them most. I will be showing feature film clips from the cinema of China, India and Iran, which will of course give them some hints, but how many will publicly disclose their surprise at any one of the countries on the list.

To be completely honest, in my own process of becoming a global citizen the one that surprised me most was Iran. In my blog “What is Global Assimilation?” I suggested that we each survey our friends and look at the diversity they bring to our lives- well, I learned this important fact in the 1980s because I had the good fortune to become friends with Pari Sara Shirazi. Since that time, I have learned a great deal about the history, culture and films of Iran. One of the clips I will be showing is from the film The Apple (1998).  This is still my favorite Iranian film because of its emotional complexity. Directed by 18-year-old female director – Samira Makhmalbaf – the story is born of real-life events.

During the time Pari Shirazi and I worked together, we authored great collaborations, one of which was an international student film festival. ““Given the increasingly guarded and monitored world we live in, we feel it is particularly important to use the context of an international film festival to talk about how contemporary politics affect contemporary culture and film,” says Pari Shirazi.”  I cherish those times and continue these conversations today with my students in class.

Like many of the projects we worked on – key ingredients were education and film in a global context. Core to each of these conversations was how art promoted cultural dialogue.  I hold these experiences dear – particularly in the spring semesters when I teach over 200 undergraduates about “Art and The World” as part of their Expository Writing Curriculum.

The full topic for class #5 is Anatomy of Difference: Self Representation & Resisting Stereotypes – A Look at Asian Cinema. At the end of the class, we will be discussing our own spectatorship of these cultural artifacts. We will seek out not what is “different” as the course title suggests, but what is the same in all of us, the universal human experience.