Students' Film Explores Challenges Faced By Iranian Immigrants

Taraneh Golozar and Farbod Khoshtinat collaborated on short film A Persian Affair

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(R-L) Producer Taraneh Golozar and director Farbod Khoshtinat. Photo courtesy of Taraneh Golozar.

Each year, many Iranian families hoping to start a new life in the United States apply for one of 50,000 Diversity Immigration Visas granted by the government through a lottery. On the surface, it would seem that securing one of the coveted visas would be a dream come true. But a compelling short film by two Academy of Art University M.F.A. students from Iran explores why some of these immigrants don’t get the happy ending they envisioned after settling in their new home. 

A Persian Affair was written and produced by Taraneh Golozar and directed by Farbod Khoshtinat. The story focuses on Iman, a 17-year-old Iranian boy, and his mother, immigrants who live in Los Angeles. After his conservative, sometimes violent father dies, Iman’s relationship with his mother slowly deteriorates. He believes his once subservient mother has abandoned their traditional values—and him—when she leaves him alone at night to work at a mysterious job.

“The idea for the movie started a long time ago after I talked to [a] woman about the challenges she’d faced after immigrating here with her son,” said Golozar, who graduated from the School of Motion Pictures & Television last year and majored in producing.

 “She told me the film industry doesn’t show the real lives of immigrants. As Iranians, my friends and I could relate to that—most of us have struggled with cultural differences since moving here.”

Golozar had known Khoshtinat for eight years when she approached him about directing A Persian Affair last November. Currently earning his M.F.A. in film, Khoshtinat was excited to be part of the project. 

“One of the main reasons I came to the Academy was to make a short film,” he explained. “I’d spent a lot of time doing commercial work for clients, but this was a great opportunity to understand drama and practice directing a movie. I could also relate to the story on a personal level. I’ve had some of the same kinds of experiences as Iman and have friends whose lives have been torn apart by challenges that arise inside their families and in society.”

Although the film focuses on how his crumbling family and clashing cultural values warp Iman’s character, Khoshtinat believes teenagers from any background can experience similar difficulties. 

“If you have violent tendencies when you’re a teenager, it can be a dangerous time,” he said. “You can become someone you don’t want to be. If your family is collapsing, anything can happen.” 

The two filmmakers made A Persian Affair with the help of RockBridge Productions, a company dedicated to making art that brings attention to unheard stories. They shot it on location in Los Angeles in just four days. As producer, Golozar said her biggest challenge was providing her team with everything they needed while working with a tight budget.

“I wanted to make sure everyone was as comfortable and happy as possible with a limited amount of money so we could make the best possible movie,” she remarked. “We had a great production team. But every project has its ups and downs, and you have to learn how to control difficult situations.”

Khoshtinat appreciated being able to trust Golozar to handle all of the production details so he could focus on directing. “We had a few creative challenges, like not getting the location we had in mind for filming some scenes and actors not having enough time to learn their lines,” he said. “We had to improvise, and sometimes we came up with something unexpected that was good.”

The duo recently debuted the result of their hard work at a private showing of A Persian Affair at the Variety Screening Room in San Francisco. A well-dressed crowd of family, friends, and Academy faculty and students enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres before watching the film. 

“The screening went great and we’re very grateful for all the support,” Golozar said. “Everyone had good feedback. They loved the movie and connected with the story. That was an amazing feeling.”

She also appreciated the help she received from her instructors at the Academy, especially Philip Chidel, Curran Engel, Randy Levinson and Stuart Thomas.

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Image courtesy of Taraneh Golozar.

“Tara is an exceptional producer,” Engel stated. “She is driven, a hard worker and a strong leader. She was always in my office asking questions, looking for opportunities and ready to take on any challenge confidently.”

RockBridge is now in the process of submitting A Persian Affair to various film festivals. Golozar and Khoshtinat are making a full-length feature with some of the same story elements from their short film, but with different characters and additional material. 

“Making this movie made me more connected to Farbod,” said Golozar. “It’s good to know that we work well together. I’m looking forward to working with him on our feature film.”