On the Walls of Tehran

The Cyrus Cylinder was the ‎centerpiece of a British Museum exhibition that toured the United States in 2013. Believed ‎by some to be the first declaration of human rights, the cylinder was exhibited in five major ‎museums in five cities where the Iranian diaspora have established communities. Seven young ‎Iranian filmmakers were invited to respond to this exercise in cultural diplomacy and explain ‎what this object from their ancient history means to them and their communities today. A multivocal experimental film, comprised of 7 short, contemplative films ‎made by filmmakers along the route of this historic tour, in Washington DC, Houston, New ‎York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles with the addition of London, the physical home ‎of the cylinder and Tehran, its spiritual home. Straddling historical and cultural spaces, each ‎filmmaker examines the Cylinder’s significance to the construction of Iranian identity across ‎three continents. The result is an original and thoughtful film that says as much about the ‎concerns and anxieties of contemporary Iranians, as it does about the Cylinder itself. The film ‎will be followed by a roundtable discussion examining the value of such experimental projects ‎where ancient heritage is approached from outside the normal historical context and instead is ‎used to contextualise the contemporary. ‎
The roundtable will consist of a short description of the producer's intention in initiating this film followed by a response to the film by Dr Karimi who will ask as an art historian: "What is at stake in celebrating or removing tangible objects from the collective imagination of a nation? Why is there a tendency to communicate history through a selected number of its tangible remains rather than others? Can ancient monuments and relics act autonomously? Are they actants or non-human sources of action (in Bruno Latour’s sense of the term)? If so, in what ways are they part of our lives and social networks and how should we make sense of them in both material and semantic ways?' Dr Zeidabadi Nejad's will contribute as a scholar of film and media looking at how film has served as a space to express critique of cultural hegemony. He will address the particularities of filmmaking in diaspora and the foregrounding of identity issues in such works. Two of the seven filmmakers will be available with the producer for a Q&A with the audience.