Tucked into the posh season of film festivals is LA's very own niche film screening and award ceremony at the LACMA, sponsored by Farhang Foundation.
Farhang means culture in the Persian language. It is a word used in many countries across Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Middle East. Most commonly Persian is the language of modern-day Iran, and indicative of a heritage that bears little to no religious baggage. Our "farhang", Iranians will tell you, is what unites us.
With political and religious divides that are stark and at times hard to transcend, Iranians cultural ties are deep and resilient, and never better on display than at Spring time. The moment of spring is our new year. We call it NoRooz, which means "new day," and celebrate the vernal equinox that ushers out the winter and rides in the spring. The traditions of NoRooz are from an empirical era when the Persian Empire comprised large swaths of Asia and the Middle East, where influences of this ancient and rooted culture remain today. Nearly 3000 years ago, Persians began celebrating spring with a tradition that has been passed down generations largely intact. Every generation retells the tales of NoRooz'es passed and implores a new generation to carry the spirit by passing on the traditions that keep us uniquely Persian in the vast global diaspora.
On the eve of the Wednesday before NoRooz we jump over small symbolic fires in a gesture that gives away the yellow that has set in over the long winter, and gains the red that streams in with the rays of springtime sun. Then we clean our homes in a ritual that signifies sweeping out the bad and letting in the good, and we set our "haft Seen" tables -- a table of seven items that begin with the 'S' sound -- which assigns a significance of life, renewal, hope and optimism to each item on the table.
In Los Angeles, Angelenos are lucky to have an organization called Farhang, headquartered right here close to home. Farhang works tirelessly year around to advance the understanding of Persian culture, without regard to political or religious conversations that often swirl around any mention of Iran.
The Foundation is funded largely by its board of directors and like minded members, many of whom make up the notably successful Persian community of Los Angeles. Persian Angelenos are involved in the arts, sciences, academia, law, business, advocacy, politics, media, movies and even public service -- and many find their common bond, indeed their motivating force, to be the substance of their shared culture.
Each year in March, Farhang Foundation puts on display a community festival celebrating Spring, in a uniquely Persian way. The festival takes place at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and since its inaugural year in 2009, has grown in size and substance to encompass more of the grounds, two of the stages, all of Bing theater and many of the courtyards. The event is festive and fun for all ages, and is consistently an eye full for all who attend. With dancers and musical delights, along with costumed heroes and heroines strolling the invariably sun kissed walkways of the LACMA, Farhang's NoRooz event is a must see for all.
Most recently, the annual film festival, which has been a staple in the last six NoRooz events, is taking on an evening aspect on the Saturday night preceding the festivities, with a red carpet film festival and screening of the six finalist films chosen by an all star panel of judges. The call for submissions was sent in the Fall during which film-makers large and small, young and old, abroad and at home were encouraged to send in their short-film creations. Of the hundreds of submissions, six were selected as finalists and will be screened in their entirety for the first time on the night of the Film Festival. Enlivened by a celebrity MC in the Bing Auditorium, the audience is treated to a panoply of great short-films that run the gamut from straight comedy to political satire, in forms ranging from hand drawn animation, to live actors broaching some of the most intimate to the most discussed topics that touch the lives of people everywhere. Though the subject-matter is often uniquely Persian, the appeal is global and the work is exceptional. Farhang Foundation awards accolades and monetary prizes to three winners and delivers to its guests an evening not to be forgotten.
If you are in LA this weekend, head to the LACMA for the red carpet film festival on Saturday March 22nd. Walk the red carpet, take photo ops with celebs and friends and have a night to remember at the LACMA, celebrating the arrival of Spring alongside one of the oldest cultures on earth.