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New York Film Festival Premieres Film from UCD PhD Candidate

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Next week, the 2016 Dance on Camera festival in New York City will host the world premiere of UCD PhD candidate Emelie Mahdavian’s film After the Curtain—at the Walter Reade Theater on Tuesday, February 16.
After the Curtain depicts four female dancers battling shifting cultural norms and facing increasing disfavor in the Post-Soviet, predominantly Muslim nation of Tajikistan. The film celebrates the rich dance and music culture of a Central Asian country largely unknown in the West.
The filmmaker, Emelie Mahdavian, is currently finishing her PhD in Performance Studies, with an emphasis in Film Practice as Research, at UC Davis. After the Curtain is her directing debut. When asked how the film came about, Mahdavian explains, “Because I am a dancer myself, I first went to Tajikistan to study dance. But the situation with woman dancers [there] was very clear to me, so I decided to return the following year to begin researching this issue—at that point my research took on the form of a feature film.”
The film features four lead subjects: Mariam Gaibova and Olmakhon “Olma” Alieva, both Tajik traditional dancers, Farangis Kasimova, a ballet dancer, and Zamira Arabova, who is a Tajik and Arabic dancer. The dancers’ backgrounds range from self-taught to classically trained. The film is “an intimate portrait of the women weighing their love of art against economic hardship, loneliness, and social reproach.”
Mahdavian was recently a Margrit Mondavi Summer Research Fellow (2014-2015); the fellowship supported post-production of the documentary, particularly collaboration with other artists and filmmaking professionals.
headshot 2 smallWhen asked what the film is trying to accomplish, Mahdavian said: “I think it is important to have non-sensationalized, personal, in-depth portraits of social issues in this part of the world. I was aiming to provide a portrait of a beautiful dance culture under duress. I integrating ethnography and experimental approaches within a story-driven structure to capture these four women’s experience and allude to the broader cultural issues at stake.”
Mahdavian is very excited to screen her film for the Dance on Camera festival next week. Soon after, the film will also be screened for Women’s History Month at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls (March 1, 2016), and at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 15-20).
In the meantime, Mahdavian is finishing her PhD, while also completing an experimental motion capture dance film, Intangible Body, which explores gender in the Muslim world. Mahdavian is also working on a feature-length documentary about the pioneering work of NASA-JPL astronomer and amateur tango dancer Sona Hosseini. Finally, she is also the director of the Davis Feminist Film Festival.
—Meg Sparling, DHI graduate student researcher
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This page was last updated: February 6, 2016



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