To celebrate the Walker’s 75th anniversary, Crosscuts will feature a series of filmmakers who have visited the art center over the last few decades.
Consistently featured in the Walker’s Women with Vision series, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is Iran’s most renowned female filmmaker. She modulates between documentary and narrative features, but her honest portrayal of the social and political issues in Iran remains constant. In April of 2010, she taught a master class at the Walker that addressed issues of authenticity and outlined strategies for how to capture restricted areas on film. Media censorship in Iran is incredibly strict: women cannot be seen wearing any type of revealing clothing, men and women cannot be physically close on screen, Western ideology is curtailed, and there can be no expression of negativity toward religion without due reason. Despite these limitations, Iranian cinema is one of the most thriving film cultures in the world. According to The Atlantic, There are more female filmmakers in Iran than there are in America.
Whether documentary or fiction, Bani-Etemad’s films highlight the resilience of the modern Iranian woman. She has managed to skirt portrayals of prostitutes, love triangles, women’s rights activists, and drug dealing past the Iranian censors. She is also the first woman to ever receive the award for Best Director at the Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran. Bani-Etemad works closely with her daughter, Baran Kosari, who is an actress that has played roles in many of her features.
A variety of Bani-Etemad’s films have screened at the Walker, from 2003’s Our Times, a documentary about Iran’s 2001 elections in which 48 women ran for president, to 2006’s Gilanah which confronts the horrors of war in Iran and Iraq through the eyes of a mother and her pregnant daughter. She also introduced a screening of her film Mainline during her 2010 visit to the Twin Cities. Bani-Etemad’s latest film—Tales—premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in late August.