You know that doc that premiered at Sundance about an Iranian girl who wants to be an astronomer? Well, in an unprecedented move, Apple is offering the film through iTunes. It’s not free, but it’s available, and long before it’ll be coming to your TV any other way.
PARK CITY, Utah – Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars is an earnest and inspiring documentary about a teenage Iranian girl who dreams of being an astronomer. It’s been getting a lot of attention since its recent debut at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival, but for anyone not fortunate enough – or cold-resilient enough – to be in Park City, there’s a speedy alternative: iTunes.
It’s the first time Apple has ever distributed a new film at Sundance to its millions of users in the U.S. and Canada while the movie was still playing at the festival. It’s unknown how long iTunes, which also offered some films during last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, will offer the doc, but it’s currently $7.99 to own and $4.99 to rent.
Is it worth the money? In short, yes. Sepideh Hooshyar was only 14 years old when director Berit Madsen found her at an astronomy festival in Iran, and subsequently documented the girl — and her quest to become an astronomer despite the opposition of her family — for nearly five years. Initially inspired by Iranian-American space tourist Anousheh Ansari, Hooshyar continually finds new ways to pursue astronomy studies even when her uncle berates her for her aspirations and her mother says their family can’t afford to send her to college.
So let’s leave the vile “terrorist” stereotype to the side for the moment and have a chat about that other (mis-)representation of Iranian Americans prevalent in the media these days. For anyone who actually thinks all Iranian Americans are successful and wealthy (at best?), or shallow, ostentatious, and money-obsessed (at worst?), have a read of this LA Times op-ed from this week (copied below), wherein a woman challenges her neighbors’ contempt for an Iranian man living in an RV on their Brentwood street.
Let this case be one more data point, Iranian Americans: representing our community as wealthy and wonderful can seem like a great idea compared to the villainous terrorist image bestowed upon us by western media, but recognize that it challenges racism by favoring classism. And it’s not pretty. Doing this can and does silence real lived experiences and real lived needs. Apart from those of us who don’t strive for mansions, Benzes, and MDs, it’s also important to know that there are plenty among us who have problems, bad luck, or down times — just like every other community — and it’s past time to start presenting a more accurate representation of the diverse lived experiences of Iranians in diaspora.
In the meantime, look out for each other, and support the social services out there that can help those in need: JFSLA, PARS, among others. And if you see Mr. Alexander-Alizadeh in Brentwood, share some Iranian hospitality to fight all that hostility.
There is a drama unfolding on the street in front of my condo building in Brentwood. For the last four months, an RV with a trailer hitch has been regularly parked on the block. Clunky and well worn, it easily takes up two parking spaces. A fluffy white American Eskimo dog often perches in the passenger seat.
How to get the man who lives in the RV off our block has been a constant topic of discussion in my building. He complies with most city ordinances. He drives off the block for weekly street cleanings. He seems to move his RV just enough to avoid being towed. There is a city law against living or sleeping in your car, but it’s difficult to enforce and is being challenged in court.
Some residents have complained to the police (and to the man himself) or called our City Council member to try to get restrictions on oversized vehicles for our block. When the man was recently jailed overnight, someone called the city’s Department of Transportation hotline and reported the RV as abandoned. But the next day, the man was released and back in his vehicle, dog in tow.
My neighbors’ worries are many: Where is he dumping his waste? Will his eyesore of an RV lower property values? Is he dangerous? One neighbor said the man screamed at him. A police officer who has chatted with him told me that he could be “excitable” but didn’t appear to be a threat.
In fact, the man who opened the door to the RV for me one recent morning was friendly and low key, neatly dressed in long camouflage shorts and a gray long-sleeve shirt. Farhad Alexander-Alizadeh, 57, was born in Iran but left in 1975 and has been a U.S. citizen, he says, since 1994. His back-story is long and complicated and filled with bouts of bad luck that started with a divorce in Pennsylvania. When he first moved to Los Angeles, he drove a limo, but he lost the job when the company went bankrupt. His recent brush with the law came after an alleged altercation over another car of his that was being towed out of a nearby parking lot. He is charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with police.
He pointed out that no windows in my building look out on his RV. “I am not in front of anyone’s eyes,” he said. “If I am not allowed to be parked in the street, where can I go?”
He says he is willing to work at almost anything. So I have a proposition for my neighbors. Instead of putting all that effort into making calls to impose new restrictions, what if we made a few phone calls to homeless advocates who might help find Alexander-Alizadeh some work and a place to live?
— Carla Hall
Another review from Sundance 2014 is Marjane Satrapi's latest film, “The Voices.” Among the top 100 things I thought I'd never say is, “Marjane Satrapi's fourth film, starring Ryan Reynolds…”but here I go saying it, and that's not even the weirdest, wonderfullest part of the sentence:
Marjane Satrapi’s fourth film, starring Ryan Reynolds, is about a “happy worker on the shipping line at a bath-and-toilet manufacturer” — who is also a murderer and takes advice from his pets.
Oh, how I do adore Marjane Satrapi!
From the review:
The fourth film from director Marjane Satrapi (“Persepolis,” “Chicken with Plums”), “The Voices" navigates the line between the gruesome and the goofy with a step as nimble as a tight-rope walker going over a sea of broken glass. It’s an extraordinarily warm and funny movie about a likable schizophrenic murderer; it’s candy-colored and meticulously composed and yet also shiny with fresh wet blood. It’s weird and funny and perfectly-pitched, and to cap off its catalog of rare feats, it also features an immensely likable performance from Ryan Reynolds.
Read more at Indywire.