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New documentary explores life of eminent film scholar Hamid Naficy

‘Mouth Harp in Minor Key’ illustrates themes of displacement and belonging

A new documentary film examining the life and achievements of eminent film scholar Hamid Naficy will be screened at the Block Museum of Art Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m. Directed by Maryam Sepehri, the film profiles Naficy’s life through the lens of the global conversation about exile, migration and belonging. 

The screening is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Sepehri, and Naficy, a professor in Northwestern University’s School of Communication.

The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

“Naficy’s inquiries into diasporic filmmaking have shaped our understanding of personal and collective expression,” said Michael Metzger, the Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts at the Block Museum. “His contributions to the study of cinema are vast, including his definitive account of Iranian cinema.”

Naficy is the Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Radio/Television/Film and a faculty member of the Middle East and North African studies program at Northwestern. He is the author of “A Social History of Iranian Cinema,” published in four volumes. He also wrote “Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place” and “An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking.”

“I hope the audience will appreciate the film’s nuanced portrayal of an Iranian-American that counters the dominant negative stereotype of Iranians in mainstream Western media,” Naficy said.

In the film, Naficy likens his state of exile to an elevator that runs between “two cultural poles, two memories, two lives.”

Like many of his generation, Naficy was studying in the U.S. when the Islamic Revolution of 1979 began and chose not to return to Iran.

He has since become a leading authority on cultural studies of diaspora, exile and postcolonial cinemas, and of Iranian and Middle Eastern cinemas in particular.

Saturday’s screening is co-sponsored by the Middle East and North African studies program, the Department of Radio/Television/Film and the Block Museum of Art. This program is made possible by the generous gift from Northwestern alumnae Tamilla Ghodsi (’91) and Zuleika M. Ghodsi (’93) that established the Iranian-American Fund for Cultural Programming.