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“The last time my brother and I went to Iran was in 1977. I was three and he was seven. Soon after that, Iran and the U.S. broke off all ties, and it became impossible for us to go back.” —Marjan Tehrani
For filmmaker Marjan Tehrani and her brother Alex, growing up Iranian American meant that political tensions often impacted their personal lives. Iran and the U.S. broke off their political relationship more than 25 years ago, but still engage in a public war of words and threats. With travel to Iran nearly impossible for many years, Alex and Marjan were stuck interpreting the mostly negative images of Iran in the American media, a conflict that shaped their identities.
When the Tehranis are finally granted their Iranian passports, Alex, a photographer, and his American bride, Heather, an art gallery administrator, decide to make a trip from New York City to Iran to have a Persian wedding—just as Alex’s own Iranian father and American mother did in 1968, when Iran and the U.S. were still allies. But traveling to Iran is complicated. As the couple prepares to leave, they must face the mixed reactions of their parents and friends, reports of war in the Middle East, bureaucratic headaches and their own nerves. In ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING, Marjan accompanies Alex and Heather and documents their journey on film.
“I think that maybe my role is to prove to my family, who have a bit more traditional viewpoint, that you can’t judge a book by its cover, you have to see the whole picture.” —Heather Tehrani
Heather has to overcome the objections of her father, whose feelings are colored not only by religious beliefs but also by political views. A meeting of the two families becomes tense when Alex’s Iranian stepmother asks about American Iranian relations and Heather’s father voices his support of President Bush’s Middle East policies. ARUSI PERSIAN WEDDING intersperses scenes of Alex and Heather’s travel preparations with documentary footage of historical events in Iran during the latter half of the 20th century, from the expulsion of the British by Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1951 through Ayattolah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. This dramatic archival footage reveals how acutely history can affect not only political relationships, but personal relationships as well.
In Tehran, Alex and Heather receive a warm and enthusiastic reception from Alex’s extended family. As the wedding day approaches, the women of the family take charge of preparing Heather for the event, a far more elaborate affair than she expected. The couple also sets out to explore more of the country en route to the wedding site, traveling through lush and desert landscapes, exploring a traditional village and an historic city and connecting with people of all ages and viewpoints. As they explore Iran on their own terms, their experiences illuminate the humor, passion and diversity of a rich culture in transition.
From filmmaker Marjan Tehrani, January 2009
Alex and Heather now have two beautiful daughters, Tallulah and Sasha. Alex is still working as a professional photographer who shoots in the States and internationally. They have been traveling this last year, taking their two daughters to countries around the world to give them the opportunity to experience other places and perspectives. They are currently living in Guatemala.
Reza, our father, continues to travel back and forth to Iran. He deeply loves his country and will continue to split his time between Iran and the States for the rest of his life. His wife Parvin, who had not traveled to Iran for many years since leaving as a young adult, now travels back and forth with my father occasionally.
My father is now planning a Persian wedding for my American husband and me and it is our hope to all travel to Iran as a big family in the near future.
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