A young filmmaker’s photo blog, started to reassure nervous U.S. friends that he was safe, draws thousands of expat fans
In 2007, an aspiring Iranian filmmaker who grew up in Los Angeles returned to Tehran, bent on launching his film career there. He soon began keeping a photo blog. Each month, he anonymously posted cell phone pictures he took of daily life around the city: of family parties, trips, food, rituals.
“The whole idea behind my site is to show that Iran is not a dangerous country,” he explained. “To show that for the most part it’s a beautiful country, with kind, loving and hospitable people.”
The anxious reactions of his L.A. friends to his move inspired him to start the blog, as a way of commuicating with them, of telling them he’d be safe. “Life Goes on in Tehran,” he called it.
“Their fears and lack of knowledge about Iran [are] justified, and a result of the negative portrayal of this country in Western media - as well as sound bites from a certain controversial president,” he wrote [George W. Bush was president then].
But soon “Life” developed a cult following. Expat Iranians were vicariously connecting to the country through his posts. He started a Facebook page, which attracted more than 2,000 fans.
He fumes about the traffic, the crazy drivers, the cinder block architecture. Tehran is “so ugly it’s beautiful,” he complains. He mourns the loss of a beloved aunt. A new baby is born; month by month, we watch her grow up.
Although he exalts in a visit to L.A., and an extended film-editing assignment in Europe, his connection to the city deepens. We watch him rent an apartment and hire movers, feeling guilty over how little they’re paid.
Sometimes he removes a picture, perhaps to keep people he knows from being identified.
That’s one reason he’s chosen to remain anonymous. Another, of course, is to keep from attracting the attention of the Iranian authorities. We respect his choice here.
Then, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is declared relected in June 2009, and demonstrators take to the streets to protest that the elections had been fraudulent, he abruptly stops posting.
He says he’s lost the will to shoot.
What is daily life if not with the most basic of human rights? he wonders, in October.
Partly, he says, three years in Tehran have changed him.
I was always an outsider looking in or an insider looking out, and could have the perspective of an “other” to spice up my comments and present a more complete picture of life in Tehran. But right now I feel like an insider looking in, without the ability to rise above the socio-political landscape that surrounds me.
I am hoping that time will provide me with that perspective, he writes, in November. Maybe next month….
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