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May 23, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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May 23, 2001
 

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Big Local High School Graduate Breaks Cultural Barriers With An Eye-Opening Film By Shirin D. Yadegar Over 1,200 people gathered at the Directors Guild of Los Angeles to sec the first Iranian film in the annual Los Angclcs film festival. Hundreds of Iranian natives pushed their way into the theater last month as to not be left behind from the prevailing dialogue that will inevitably immerse within their culture immediately after they leave the theater. Babak Shokrian (BHHS Class of 1983), the producer and writer of "America So Beautiful," is the source behind the intro- duction of Iranian culture in mainstream film. "America So Beautiful" represents the dual culture of an immigration popula- tion coming to the United Statcs during the 1979 hostage crisis. "In 1979 I was 14 years old," Shokrian said. "You scc a lot at 14. I rcmcmbcr there were so many Iranian kids coming into the [Bcvcrly Hills] school district during that time. There was such a cultural split that it made it difficult for Iranians to blend into the new society." This lilm epitomizes the stcreotypical references made to the Iranian people as a result of the images portrayed through the mainstream media. During the hostage cri- sis the United States was bombarded with endless images of blindfolded Americans being paraded through the strects of lran. Shokrian noted that although the film was originally made for the Iranian subculture "I'm hoping that the film will cross over cultural barriers," he said. "America So Beautiful" uses both English and Farsi (with English subtitles) in portraying the reality of the dual culture in today's society. Shokrian did not shy away from showing the reality of the younger generation. His bold depiction of the Studio 54 club scene included the cen- sored margin of this subculture. While many traditional viewers found the film a bit outrageous, the truth is Shokrian is equivalent to the Quentin Tarantino of Iranian fihn today. Shokrian's cinematic brilliance reveals thc bittersweet story of an immigrant pop- ulation entering a democratic nation in hopes of living a fairytale life. "Freedom is what you make it. It's never easy. Pcople want to believe that dreams will come true over night avoiding the loneliness and isolation in a New World. You can't run to a new country to find milk and honey. Whether you live in a democra- cy or not, there is no guarantee for suc- cess," Shokrian said. This young filmmaker lives by those words. He struggled within his own family because he was entering an uncommon field. In Iran people in the entertainment industry were not admired as they are in Hollywood. "It was an uphill battle the whole way," Shokrian said. But today, as you encounter Shokrian's mother in the local Iranian market, the sparkle in her eyes reveals her profuse hap- piness for her son's success. "America So Beautiful" was made with a budget under $500,(X)0. The majority of the cast was not paid. "Everyone involved worked because they believed in the cause," Shokrian said referring to the 16-month cinematic process. "[Through film] I hope to create a little window into our [Iranian] own world. This film only touches the surface of the struggles and beauty within our culture." F R TW introduction service for professionals LET US INTRODUCE YOU TO RESERVATION FOR TWO INTRODUCING SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DATE BY DATE! THERE'S SOMEONE YOU HAVE TO MEETI Many of today's busiest singles don'1 have time to meet just the right per- son. Reservation for two can help We introduce you to exactly the type of people you're looking for Call us today and we'll tell you how to started. And soon, we'll be makinc reservations for two, for you! (818) 784-0299 May 17 - 23, 200t 7