The festival's organizer says a misunderstanding cost the event a crucial grant at the last minute.
As the second annual Wisconsin Iranian Film Festival held its final screenings at Union South's Marquee theater this past weekend, organizer Hamidreza Nassiri began asking audiences for help. A free and ambitious showcase of contemporary Iranian cinema, the festival had secured some funding through the Wisconsin Union Directorate and UW-Madison's Mideast Studies Program. But the bulk of the funding was to come from an Associated Students of Madison grant that ended up falling through at the last minute, due to a misunderstanding in the paperwork, Nassiri says.
The loss of the ASM grant means Nassiri, who is currently studying film at UW-Madison on a graduate fellowship, is on the hook for paying distributors to screen the festival's films. He's currently trying to raise about $4,000 through a GoFundMe campaign and through PayPal on the festival's website.
While the funding problems—which arose just a few days before the festival's screenings began—have made the past couple of weeks stressful for Nassiri, he's happy with how the festival went otherwise. It spread seven feature films, a program of seven shorts, and discussions about Iran and its cinema across the last two weekends of February. Nassiri says each screening drew at least 40 or 50 people, and that a February 24 screening of Vahid Jalilvand's No Date, No Signature about half-filled the 350-seat Marquee. The festival attracted media attention both in Madison (including praise from Tone Madison's Grant Phipps) and even in the Tehran Times.
"The main thing that I wanted was to make people talk to each other—just look at the films that come from Iran and look at that society through the lens of the people instead of the lens of the western media, and then let's talk to each other face to face about it," Nassiri says.
Nassiri would like to keep the festival going in future years, but says that'll be hard to do if he ends up personally shouldering the costs of this year's event. He's continuing to ask for donations from the Madison film community, and says he'll explore other sources of funding for future iterations of the festival.