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City of Tales a film by Arash Nassiri. 2017, France, 21 min. Oral testimonies give shape to Iranian diasporic memory in contemporary Los Angeles.

This week, we’re presenting one of the short films selected at this year’s 47th edition of the New Directors/New Films festival, programmed by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. Directed by Franco-Iranian artist and filmmaker Arash Nassiri, City of Tales is a unique and dreamlike cinematic experience, shot in Los Angeles during the night celebrations of “Nowruz”, the Persian New Year. In his 20-minute film, Nassiri stages memories of Tehran in the ’70s, collected from Iranian people now living abroad, through the connected minds of young residents of the City of Angels. The film gives birth to an urban, virtual territory suspended in time and place, with streets lit by neons and fireworks. The film was produced by up-and-coming Paris based production company Jonas Films.

 

 

Places are at the core of Nassiri’s work, and he uses them as “speculative spaces where ideologies can become visible.” What initiated City of Tales is a reflection on the historical context of the modernisation and westernization of Tehran between the mid-’60s and the 1979 Islamic revolution, and more specifically the influence of the American way of life on the city and its architecture.

 

The filmmaker interviewed 30 Iranians who used to live in Tehran at the time and have since moved to North America or Europe. He used these oral testimonies to create the dialogue in the film, to give shape to an “Iranian diaspora memory”. Nassiri chose to stage and commemorate this collected memory of 1970s Tehran in the streets of Los Angeles, the place where much of the American influence at that time came from, where an important Iranian community now resides, and shot the film during Nowruz (which in Persian means ‘New Day’).

 

“I like to see this film as some kind of group therapy. Staging these collected memories in the street of Los Angeles moves people’s intimate memories into the public space of Los Angeles streets, making them visible. Also the material space of L.A. and the virtual spaces described in the stories interact like two tectonic plates rubbing on each other.”ARASH NASSIRI

 

City of Tales is Arash Nassiri’s fifth short film. He was born in Tehran in 1986, and is now based in Paris. After spending time at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, taking part in a student exchange to Berlin and focusing on photography and video at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, he completed his studies at the post-graduate art and audiovisual research center Le Fresnoy in the North of France. City of Tales premiered at this year’s Berlinale, and his other films have screened at exhibitions and festivals in France and abroad, including at the 2015 Architecture Biennale in Venice and at the Fundació Suñol in Barcelona.

Credits for
CITY OF TALES
written by
Arash Nassiri
produced by
Elsa Klughertz
cinematography
Jordane Chouzenoux
music
Raphaël Henard
editing
Pierre Deschamps & Julien Soudet
production design
Militza Solorio
costume design
Anne-Line Desrousseaux & Tristan Lahoz
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