If you thought Persepolis was the only work of Iranian culture to make waves in recent years, Emruz Festival is hoping to change that. Happening over two long weekends, April 19-21 and 26-28, at the Spectrum performance space in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, the inaugural festival will consist of musical performances, theater productions, and short films by independent Iranian artists living inside and outside of the United States.
Emruz means “today” in Farsi, and the festival’s organizers are interested in asking “What are we today, right now?” and “What is happening with us as immigrants in this country?” said theater director/choreographer Shadi Ghaheri. She and Iranian composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh wanted to interrogate the role of the artist in addressing these contemporary issues of identity.
The festival will open Friday night with Mohammad Aghebati’s play “Apart-ment” and musical performances from the Hamidreza Maleki Ensemble. The ensembles performing throughout the festival will play traditional Iranian music and instruments, like the bowed kamancheh and dulcimer-like santur. “The musicians that you see, they’re each one of the best in what they do,” Ghaheri said.
Jame Daran– featuring Kaveh and Siavash Haghtalab on kamancheh, percussion, drumset, and santur– will perform Friday, April 26. Babak Safa will perform on the stringed Azerbaijani Qopuz instrument on April 27. And the Iranian Female Composers Association– featuring Emruz co-curator Nourbakhsh on piano alongside Anahita Abassi and Aida Shiraz– will play a series of solos on closing night.
The festival will also bring together talented Iranian directors and actors, like award-winning filmmaker Anahita Ghazvinizadeh (whose first feature film, They, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival) and Āsoo Performing Arts director Hengameh Fallah.
View this post on Instagram
Salam beautifuls! Hope you are enjoying this amazing weather. In case you have missed our full program we would like to share it again. Remember the space are very limited, get your tickets from the link in the bio. #artfestival #iranian #independent #independentartfest #contemporary#artist #emruzfest #artoftheday #performanceart #livemusic #theater#iraniancinema #literature #artfest #diasporaart
Emruz co-curator Ghaheri will also star alongside five other actors in her play “Shar-e-Farang” on Sunday. “Shahr-e-Farang,” which translates to “peep show,” but without all the connotations of nudity and sexuality, was a kind of show that kids could pay to watch by looking through a hole at bazaars. Ghaheri’s take on the peep show, however, tells “a lot of cruel jokes about our political being today.” The play is not specifically about Iran, but it draws on Iranian news, poetry, and interviews.
Emruz’s featured artists come from as far as Iran and Berlin, but many are based in New York as well. Packed into a small venue, Ghaheri hopes they will mingle throughout the festival.
Although Ghaheri and Nourbakhsh had Spectrum’s support (the venue’s director, Glenn Cornett, encouraged them to plan the festival), they organized Emruz with no funding. We “have been working nonstop every day without anyone paying us,” Ghaheri explained. The organizers told the performers that they could offer a space to perform and a percentage of the ticket sales, but not much else. But, the artists were still eager to share their art.
Ghaheri says that there’s something about coming from an underrepresented culture that makes her eager to see Emruz succeed. “It’s really annoying to me that my friends and my colleagues cannot practice the thing they believe in because there’s not equality and diversity,” Ghaheri said. We “have to prove that it’s important.”