Pelan #20: “Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars” (2013)

Pelan #20:
Title: “Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars” (2013)- 88 min
A documentary film directed by: Berit Madsen
January 18, 2016
Simon Fraser University- Harbour Center, Room 1800


Sepideh is a young Iranian woman who dares to dream – of a future as an astronaut. At night, she stares up at the universe, and she is taking lessons from a space fanatic who teaches schoolchildren about astronomy. At home, full of hope and longing, she watches recordings of the world’s first female astronaut, Anousheh Ansari. So it is possible! When her father died suddenly six years ago, Sepideh discovered that she could feel closer to him by watching the stars. And so her dream was born, but not everyone appreciates her boundless ambition. After all, becoming an astronaut is not exactly a normal goal for a girl in Iran, particularly because there’s no money to pay for university and beyond. Her mother and uncle are worried about the emancipated young woman. She doesn’t want to learn to cook, hardly ever visits her family and doesn’t seem to be thinking about marriage at all. We follow this brave young Iranian woman as she watches the stars, as well as at school, in the mosque and at home, where tensions steadily rise. As we follow Sepideh, it becomes clear just how at odds her dreams are with her current reality and the expectations of those around her. Fortunately, Sepideh is able to express all her thoughts, dreams and cares in the letters she writes to her hero, Albert Einstein. (Source: IDFA)

Berit Madsen is a social anthropologist and documentary filmmaker from Denmark. She has carried out fieldwork in the Caribbean, Nepal, Niger and Denmark and has produced a number of documentary films as part of her ethnographic research. Her film production lies within the genre of observational cinema, with a strong emphasis on the relationship across the camera and on using the camera as a tool for investigation. Madsen has lectured extensively on ethnographic filmmaking in Denmark, India and Serbia. She has been a member of the working committee of the Nordic Anthropological Film Association since 1991, NAFA Vice General Secretary since 2006, and co-editor of its electronic newsletter NAFA-Network since 1993.

Followed by post-screening Q&A session with filmmaker.


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“PELAN" is a nonprofit and nonpartisan project, organized by a group of students and graduates of "Simon Fraser University (SFU)" in Vancouver. “PELAN" has been initially designed for screening the contemporary documentaries and short films about Iranian people made by independent Iranian/non-Iranian directors. While these movies may have been banned in Iran, they have been presented in international film festivals all around the world. So, we believe this is a great opportunity for Iranian living in Vancouver to watch these artworks on a bigger scale. “PELAN" was established in 2013 and it has been happening since then and so far we have screened several documentaries from Iranian filmmakers who work inside and outside of Iran. We've also been organizing online Q&A sessions with the directors/producers at the end of the screenings.