By Terry Mikesell
Three events featuring several interesting movies — 33, to be precise — will begin screening Thursday in area theaters.
One offers an animated movie that explores sexual restrictions in Iran; another explores the central Ohio music scene; and the third consists of a 31-film program of documentaries.
Repression — both sexual and social — is real in Iran, and Ali Soozandeh depicts as much in his animated movie “Tehran Taboo” (2017), screening tonight at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
The movie follows four people:
‒ Pari, an impoverished woman who turns to prostitution, often with her young son in tow, after her drug-addicted husband is imprisoned. She wants a divorce but can’t obtain one without her husband’s consent.
‒ Sara, an expectant mother who has had two miscarriages. Sara feels trapped both by her live-in in-laws and by her husband, who refuses to let her find work.
‒ Babak, a musician, who has sex with Donya in a club bathroom; afterward, Donya tells Babak that she is engaged and he must help her surgically replace her hymen or they will both be killed.
Soozandeh lived in Iran until age 25, when he emigrated to Germany. There, he overheard a conversation between two young Iranian men about their sex lives back home, and one mentioned seeing a prostitute on the street accompanied by a young boy.
“It was the beginning of the stories,” Soozandeh, 48, said during an interview from his home in Cologne, Germany.
Soozandeh said he wanted to raise questions about repression and double standards in Iran. For example, in one scene, a man picks up Pari for sex, then becomes enraged when he sees his daughter holding hands with a man as they walk down a sidewalk.
“The people everywhere have the same needs, the same wants; they want to have very simple lives,” he said. “Why we have to fight for that, that’s big question in our minds.”
Animation was used because filming in Iran wasn’t possible, Soozandeh said. (The film was made in Germany and Austria.)
“We need permission to shoot from the cultural ministry, the police,” he said. “It wasn’t possible for us to get permission to shoot in Iran. I think animation, it was a way to get around censorship in Iran.”
Plus, Soozandeh feared for his freedom.
“I think I can go back to Iran, but the question is whether I can get out again,” he said.
The animation combines computer-generated imagery and rotoscope. Because Tehran has an appearance so distinctive that no other city could be used as a substitute, Soozandeh obtained photographs of Iranian storefronts and used CGI to animate the images.
With rotoscope, actors are filmed in front of a greenscreen, and a computer traces the images to animate the characters. The characters and scenery are combined to create animation.
Soozandeh hopes that the film, which has been shown only in underground screenings in Iran, starts conversations in his homeland.
“The movie can ask the people (questions),” he said. “It cannot give answers, but it can be the start of a dialogue — and it’s very important to start that dialogue. “I think for finding a solution you need to start a dialogue.”
Groove U. is known primarily as a school that trains people to enter the music industry, but the students at the Dublin institution are about to unveil a documentary.
“Homegrown: Becoming a Music City” was the capstone project for about a half-dozen students, said Austin Finley, a project co-leader.
In the movie, Finley said, students interviewed area musicians, producers and booking agents about the burgeoning Columbus music scene.
“Really, (it) expressed our belief that Columbus is on its way to becoming one of the next major music cities,” said Finley, 21, of Granville. “We think it already is a major music city; it just doesn’t have the recognition of a Nashville or a New York.”
The film will be screened on Saturday at the Gateway Film Center. Afterward, the rock band Doc Robinson will perform.
Where: Gateway, 1550 N. High St.
Showtime: 4 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $5, or $10 at the door
To call an upcoming event at the Gateway “Documentary Week” is a bit of a misnomer.
The “week” lasts for 11 days.
During that time, the theater will screen 31 documentaries that touch on subjects ranging from art and music to war and finance.
But the main subject of most of the films is a person who is making a difference.
“Great documentaries connect to us because they’re true stories that reveal something surprising about our world,” Gateway President Chris Hamel said in a statement. “You’re likely to find several documentaries that will be nominated for an Academy Award next year in this week’s lineup.”
The screenings begin Thursday evening with “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,” featuring elite chefs making meals out of scraps; “Our New President,” which examines the relationship that Russia has with U.S. President Donald Trump through Russian news clips and videos; and “The Devil and Father Amorth,” by director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”), who was allowed to witness and film an exorcism.
Films will be screened through May 6. For a complete schedule, visit the website.
Where: Gateway Film Center
Admission: $5 to $10.75, with passes ranging from $19 to $99