During a season of intensifying relations between the United States and Iran, Sam Ali Kashani returned to his family’s homeland during the summer of 2007. Like the majority of Iranian-American families that ultimately settled in California, Sam’s family came to the United States after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Sam, however, was thoroughly American, leading a lifestyle typical of any young Californian. Therefore, his perspective of Iran was much like most Americans, colored by skewed media portrayals and political constructions. Yet, the Tehran he observed upon his arrival was anything but what he had seen on the television: the bustling, modern city squares; the influence of Western culture on the adolescents and young professionals, and the vibrant calls for social reform. Tehran: Another Side is a tale of the dynamic city from the eyes of one Iranian-American, which strips the camera from political filtering and humanizes its people with sincerity and honesty.
Upon his return to Los Angeles from his first trip to Tehran, his friends were eager to hear stories and see pictures that confirmed their misconceptions and stereotypes of Tehran. While they anticipated tales about Islamic fundamentalists and images of desert traveling camels, Sam revealed sides of the city that reminded them about their typical American lives in California. Taken aback by their shock and disbelief about Iran’s normalcy, Sam resolved to piece together a living memory of his first trip back to Iran: this documentary.
While walking the streets of Tehran and commingling with its everyday citizens, Sam brings to the screen faces and stories ignored by the BBC and CNN, freely discussing politics with Iranian college students, taking in the city’s electric night life, and absorbing Tehran’s rich and celebrated history. In his personal quest for understanding, Sam also travel’s through upper Tehran where he makes friends and challenges simplistic notions about America and Americans, visits his ancestors’ burial sites, and engages the growing underground hip-hop scene sweeping through the city.
Misconceptions and stereotypes linked to Iran are held by Americans in general and Iranian-Americans alike. Through his experience, Sam hopes his documentary will serve as a provocative catalyst opening his audience’s eyes, and hearts, to a Tehran shadowed by political caricatures and ignorance.
For one Iranian-American, Tehran was a unique city that had a vibe and pace unlike any other city in the world, but its people spoke with a tone and hope much like the people of Los Angeles, Tokyo or London. There are two sides to every story, this documentary tells another side of the often misunderstood and vilified city Sam’s parents fled and his ancestors are buried under: Tehran.
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Hardcoded English subtitle.