fbpx 30th Annual Festival of Films from Iran | Gene Siskel Film Center

30th Annual Festival of Films from Iran

February 8 - March 1

From February 8 through March 1, the Gene Siskel Film Center celebrates the 30th anniversary of our Festival of Films from Iran. The festival endures as a showcase that has brought the innovation, resilience, and humanism of one of the world’s great national cinemas to Chicago audiences over three decades. Now, more than ever, the voices of Iranian artists need to be heard in exploring our shared humanity through history, compassion, comedy, and love. Whether you are a longtime supporter or completely new to Iranian cinema, please join us in discovery!

A fitting approach to our milestone year involves taking a journey through the past by way of the present in four documentaries, as well as focusing on the exciting range and creativity of four very diverse dramatic features. The festival opens on Saturday, February 8, with the critically acclaimed documentary COUP 53 by Taghi Amirani, who will be present for audience discussion. A gripping real-life story of spies and international perfidy, the film reveals newly discovered facts in the recounting of the British and U.S.-backed 1953 overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government.

A reception celebrating the festival anniversary and presented by MALA (Muslim American Leadership Alliance) follows the opening night film and discussion. We also present an award to longtime festival advisor, filmmaker, and author Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, honoring her key role in the founding of the Festival of Films from Iran.

FINDING FARIDEH, Iran's official entry for Oscar consideration, follows an Iranian woman's search for her birth family. Adopted from a Tehran orphanage by a Dutch couple after being abandoned as an infant at a religious shrine in Mashad, 38-year-old Farideh opens a Pandora's Box of conflicted emotions when three families attempt to claim her. A most transgressive and satirical look at love is seen in TEHRAN: CITY OF LOVE, a daring of-the-moment comedy that pushes the limits of subject matter with regard to things like catfishing, stalking, and homosexuality, and has yet to screen in Iran. Amir Homayoun Ghanizadeh, one of Iran's best-known avant-garde stage directors brings a black-comic fantasy with bizarre musical numbers to the screen with A HAIRY TALE.

Although the body of Iran's pre-1979 cinema has largely been destroyed in its entirety in the wake of the revolution, two highly motivated filmmakers have created documentaries assembled from hundreds of clips sourced from surviving home video copies of these long-lost films. Due to the obsolete home-video technology, the imagery may be a ghost of the originals, but these ghosts speak volumes in revealing a lost cultural legacy. Ehsan Khoshbakht's FILMFARSI spills a veritable cornucopia of genres that once graced Iranian screens, from action movies and musicals to Three Stooges knock-offs, all with his own insightful interpretive commentary. A reception sponsored by Pasfarda Arts & Cultural Exchange follows the February 23 screening. We pair FILMFARSI with THE WARDEN, a contemporary mystery/thriller that plunges the viewer into the pre-revolution cultural milieu of 1966, with a prison break in progress.

Images of women and issues affecting women prevail on our closing weekend of February 29 and March 1. Also compiled from clips of lost films, the documentary WOMEN ACCORDING TO MEN, directed by Saeed Nouri, presents a colorful and revealing look at the images and stereotypes of Iranian women as portrayed by male directors between 1932 and 1979. Nouri will be present for Q&A via Skype following the March 1 screening. We pair the documentary with the contemporary drama SEVEN AND A HALF, in which seven young women struggle with fallout from their society's fetishized ideal of female virginity.

The Gene Siskel Film Center thanks the many individuals, companies, and agencies in Iran and in the U.S. whose invaluable efforts, good will, and support have made this year’s festival possible. Special thanks to: Taghi Amirani, Amirani Media; Mohammad Atebbai, Iranian Independents; Ehsan Khoshbakht; Armin Miladi, Daricheh Cinema; Nasrine Médard de Chardon, DreamLab Films; Eleaheh Nobakht, Eli Image; Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa; Narimon Safavi; Pasfarda Arts & Cultural Exchange; and MALA.

—Barbara Scharres


Taghi Amirani in person!

Coup 53

2019, Taghi Amirani, UK/Iran, 118 min.
With Ralph Fiennes


  • Sat, Feb 8th 7:30pm
  • Sun, Feb 9th 2:00pm

A Hairy Tale


2019, Amir Homayoun Ghanizadeh, Iran, 100 min.
With Saber Abar, Ali Nasirian


  • Sun, Feb 9th 5:15pm

Finding Farideh

2018, Khourosh Ataee and Azadeh Moussari, Iran/Netherlands, 88 min.


  • Sat, Feb 15th 6:00pm
  • Sun, Feb 16th 5:00pm

Tehran: City of Love

2018, Ali Jaberansari, Iran/UK/Netherlands, 102 min.
With Forough Ghajabagli, Mehdi Saki


  • Sat, Feb 15th 8:00pm
  • Sun, Feb 16th 3:00pm

Chicago premiere!


2019, Ehsan Khoshbakht, Iran/UK, 83 min.


  • Sat, Feb 22nd 6:15pm
  • Sun, Feb 23rd 5:00pm

The Warden


2019, Nima Javidi, Iran, 90 min.
With Navid Mohammadzadeh, Parinaz Izadyar


  • Sat, Feb 22nd 8:00pm
  • Sun, Feb 23rd 3:00pm

Closing night film! Saeed Nouri via Skype!

Women According to Men

Zan Be Ravayat-e Mard

2019, Saeed Nouri, Iran, 90 min.


  • Sat, Feb 29th 6:00pm
  • Sun, Mar 1st 5:00pm

Seven and a Half

Haft va nim

2019, Navid Mahmoudi, Iran/Afghanistan, 75 min.
With Neda Jebrelli, Hasti Mahdavi


  • Sat, Feb 29th 8:00pm
  • Sun, Mar 1st 3:30pm