"Be like melting snow ― wash yourself of yourself." ― Rumi
Our film transports us to Tehran, Iran in 1985 ― at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war. We meet Neda and Omid, two very sheltered adult siblings who live with their single mother in a dingy one-bedroom apartment.
Caught in a web of war, strict social laws, and a mentally unhinged mother, Neda and Omid find spiritual refuge wherever they can. Neda, shunned by Iranian society as an "old maid" at a mere 27 years of age, buries herself in Islam. Omid dreams of escaping into a music video fantasy of the West. When an unexpected visitor moves in, Neda and Omid are forced to come of age in a remarkable yet unspeakable way.
The traditional narrative will be interspersed with mystic Sufi imagery, to create an experience that is both thought-provoking and totally accessible.
Why This Story is Important
“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.” ― Rumi
In the last few decades there has been a gulf of misunderstanding between "the West" and Iran. In American media and entertainment, Middle Eastern people are often portrayed in association with terrorism, human rights abuses, and unrest. This film tells an intimate, universal story that also illuminates the Iranian and Muslim cultures. More than an Iranian story though, it's a family story, a coming-of-age story, an unflinchingly human story.
The film also creates a much needed dialogue between modern Islam and the concept of sexuality, questioning what make us spiritually "clean." From our experiences, the way Islam is often practiced today can create a crippling, sex-negative environment. What happened to the sensual/spiritual reconciliation of the likes of Rumi? Can sex be a form for worship too? As far as we know this is the first time these important ideas have been examined on film in this way.
Who We Are
“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” ― Rumi
The writing of this film was a labor of love. After sharing, laughing, and crying over family stories, three artist friends with very different backgrounds decided to pour their experiences into a single script. Despite having ancestry from three different continents, they were shocked to find their tales had so much in common.
The 18-page script was crafted in about a month of group writing sessions: Melissa, the Colombian-Argentinean American, brought a fierce sense of story to the writing process. Parisa, the Iranian-Canadian-American, actually grew up in Tehran during the war, and contributed many fascinating details and facts. Amin, the Egyptian-American, helped find the right words to tell the group's tale.
This script, though woven out of these personal stories, has morphed into something quite its own. We are now ready to share this incredible piece with the world ― but we can only do it with your help!
Why We Need Your Help
“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about… say yes quickly!” ― Rumi
We have come so far already: we have most of our locations locked, we have hired an award-winning group of crew members and producers, we've hired some incredible actors, and we have some big name actors interested in coming on board!
In the process of shooting some test footage, we've been able to calculate a realistic minimum cost for bringing this story to life.
Though we have incredible pros contributing their time for much less than they're accustomed to, we still have many expenses to make Ablution a reality. Here's a partial list:
1. Renting equipment including cameras, mics, lights, etc.
2. Art department and wardrobe costs: we're creating a period Tehran in LA!
3. Commissioning an original, Persian-inspired score
4. Getting star actor attachments
5. Food for the hard-working cast and crew
6. Post-production: Color correction, sound design, editing, etc.
7. Modest compensation for our cast and crew. We respect art as a profession and believe in compensating our people.
8. Festival entry fees
9. The list goes on!
Meet the Team (So Far!)
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” ― Rumi
Parisa Barani (Writer/Director/Producer)
PARISA BARANI is a Canadian/Iranian director and producer. She graduated from Long Beach State and immediately found employment in distribution as a Director of International Sales, where she traveled all over the world to film festivals such as Belinale, Cannes, Venice, Discope, Berlinale, TIFF, and TV markets’ Mip-TV and Mip-Com. Last year, Barani was accepted into the prestigious SITI Summer Theatre Workshop in Saratoga, NY, where Anne Bogart personally mentored her. During the five-week program, Barani was trained in the Viewpoint and Suzuki Technique, both of which taught her new ways to pull compelling performances from her actors. She also studied directing, film production, script analysis, and acting at the University of British Columbia.
Ablution is Barani’s directorial debut.
Amin El Gamal (Writer/Actor)
AMIN EL GAMAL is a proud first generation Egyptian-American and a Bay Area native. He is best known for playing fan-favorite Kahlid "Amen" Salim on The Newsroom (HBO) opposite Jeff Daniels, Dev Patel, and Emily Mortimer. His recent stage credits include work with Chalk Rep, A Noise Within, Musical Theatre West (with Davis Gaines), Coeurage Theatre Company (with Valorie Curry), EST-LA (with Gates McFadden), The NY Public Theater (with JoAnne Akalaitis and Philip Glass), The Magic Theatre, LA Phil Live (with Orlando Bloom and Anika Noni Rose), and the Rubicon Theatre Company. He is currently shooting the indie feature film Better Half and recently received the Best Actor Award at the NorCal Film Festival for the political thriller The Strange Case of Salman Abd Al Haqq. Amin is also an avid activist working primarily in literacy, arts advocacy, and LGBTQ rights within Middle Eastern Communities. BA: Stanford University (2008 Evelyn. M. Draper Prize for Performance), MFA in Acting: USC (2011 Ava Greenwald Memorial Award).
"A rising star." - Variety Arabia (The Newsroom, 2012)
"Amin El Gamal's deadpan performance convulses the house." - The LA Times (Oklahoma! at Musical Theatre West, 2013)
"Amin El Gamal adds small, unexpected notes of both humor and poignance." - LA Stage Times (Antony & Cleopatra at A Noise Within, 2012)
Melissa Recalde (Writer/Actor)
MELISSA RECALDE is a proud South Texas native of Colombian-Argentine descent.She recently appeared in the indie-feature Nothing in Los Angeles, as well as the action short The Wedding, which played at the 2013 Action On Film International Film Festival.Some of her other film work includes Tracy and Now or Never, which both premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, as well as Meet Me Mambo, Comatose, The Doctor, and Le Grande Voyage de Giovanni.Her most recent stage work includes collaborations with cARTel Collaborative Arts LA’s radio-play The Auditor and Living Room Tour production We Are Gathered Here.She is currently writing, producing, and starring in the comedic web-series Miss Adventures and has appeared in National Commercials for American Express, Google, Lowe’s and Burger King, among others.Melissa graduated summa cum laude with an MFA in Acting from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in theatre and English from Stephen F. Austin State University.Some of her favorite Regional Theatre Credits include The Bird and the Bee (US premiere), Bug, and Killer Joe, for which she received Best Lead Actress in a Comedy (Austin Theatre Examiner).
Dena Hysell (Producer)
DENA HYSELL is producer who has successfully built and run multiple entertainment companies, inside the studio system and independently. Recognized for her work with top honors at multiple festivals (Toronto, Seattle, Indiana, NYFF), as well as having a track record for her work being acquired by major distributors. Her feature project Down for Life, starring Danny Glover and Snoop Dogg, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. She produced A Little Help, Michael J. Weithorn’s (King of Queens, Ned & Stacey) feature directorial debut starring Jenna Fischer and Chris O’Donnell, which released theatrically to rave reviews and received 3.5 out of 4 stars by Roger Ebert. Her other feature producer credits include Home Run Showdown, The Factory, and Rumperbutts as well as multiple documentaries.She attended Stanford University (BA, MFA), serves on the Board of Directors for Stanford in Entertainment, and was named a 2009 Stanton Scholar and artist representative for The Aspen Institute’s Socrates Seminar on the relationship between business and government.She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Mobile Film Classroom, a 501c3 charity organization.
KANICA SUY (co-producer) is a graduate of UCLA and Inner-City Filmmakers, and is a talent manager at Sweeney Entertainment.She has served as VP and Head of Development for the past three years as talent manager at Sweeney Entertainment.
Allen E. Ho (Cinematographer)
ALLEN E. HO is an Asian American cinematographer based out of Los Angeles. His work behind the camera has been screened at festivals such as Cannes, SXSW, Sundance, LA Film Fest and all major Asian American film festivals in the US. His other accolades include shooting Student Academy Award nominated film, THE MIDWIFE’S HUSBAND as well as writing and shooting Vimeo Staff Pick short, MAGPIE, which premiered at South By Southwest in 2012.He holds a Masters degree in Cinematography from the University of Texas, Austin where he taught workshops in lighting and camera as well as receiving the Radio Television Film Narrative Filmmakers Award, Graduate Diversity Fellowship, the Pic Wagner fellowship and the UT Continuing Fellowship.
Allison Vanore (Line Producer/AD)
ALLISON VANORE is an award winning independent film and indie television producer. Notable projects include "Anyone But Me" (Winner of multiple Best Drama awards to date including a 2010 People's Silver Telly Award), Hopelessly in June (Bud Abbott Comedy Award - Garden State Film Festival 2012), A Boy's Life (Winner Audience Award Best Dramatic Short - Arizona International Film Festival 2012), "Cost of Capital" (Winner Best Original Score - Indie Soap Awards 2012 and IAWTV Awards 2012), The Drought (Youtube's Your Film Festival Top 10 out of 15,000 submissions, screened at Venice Film Festival 2012), and Junkyard which screened in festivals across 4 continents in 2009!Current feature films nearing completion/release include Love in the Time of Monsters and 42 Seconds of Happiness.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ― Rumi
Check out our enticing perks to the right...
Risks and challenges
“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
Our film poses some unique production challenges:Again, we are creating a period (1980s) Tehran in Los Angeles, CA in a matter of weeks. Also, many of our cast and crew have other obligations and gigs, so we must wrap this project by the end of Jan 2014!
Beyond production and distribution, we've come to realize that some of the themes of the film may be considered incendiary by certain groups on both sides. Islamophobic pundits may misinterpret the film and speak out against it, and conservative Muslims may find the subject matter too bold. We are aware of the potential backlash, but have hopes that our film will transcend that to stimulate real conversations and spur social change.
Video shot by Robert Colby and Allen Ho
Edited by Angela Chen
Original Score by Rob Gokee
- (30 days)