Animator shows films about Iran
By Alex Duckles
Published on Tuesday, May 26, 2009
In 1986, during the thick of the Iran-Iraq war, Iranian animator Noori Zarrinkelk visited Dartmouth for the first time to give a presentation on his work. Zarrinkelk returned to the College last Friday — over 20 years later and with Iran once again in the news — to give a similar presentation in Loew Auditorium. Zarrinkelk screened five of his films, which express the need for global peace and understanding, as well as two others from contemporary Iranian animators.
Animation experts worldwide hail Zarrinkelk as the “father of Iranian animation” for his body of award-winning work and his role in founding several animation schools. After starting his career illustrating children’s books, Zarrinkelk has since has gone on to become the president of the International Animated Film Association.
Zarrinkelk, in an interview with The Dartmouth, said that although he is hesitant to speak about his opinions on Iranian politics, he seeks to use his animation as a means to share the culture and history of the country with audiences worldwide.
“The land of Iran, and the culture of Iran, is different and should be different from other cultures,” he said, adding that animation is “one of the best ways to tell how people lived and what they imagined about the future and the past, and to show all this mythology that has not been shown on the screen.”
Zarrinkelk said that he works to encode profound political and social messages in his films.
“The more there are films and the exchange of ideas in different media in art, science, sport, the more we can help people come together and make friendship,” he said. “The situation we’re suffering now is the separation of people.”
Film and media studies professor David Ehrlich was responsible for bringing Zarrinkelk to Dartmouth in 1986 as part of a series of lectures by international animators at various institutions along the East Coast.
“It was important then because of the beginning of hostility towards Iran,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich invited Zarrinkelk to campus last Friday as a guest lecturer for his Asian Animation class.
While he said that the current political climate makes Zarrinkelk’s films relevant for modern audiences, Ehrlich said that the political messages in the films have a symbolic importance as well.
“Modern films are ruining the young generation with aggression and sex and all this stuff,” he said. “It is not really what we need to grow. We need to grow not only in technology, but in the moral aspects of life as well.”
One of the films screened on Friday, “The Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1975), portrays each continent on the globe transforming into a variety of animals barking or squawking at neighboring countries. North America and Asia transform into two bickering chickens, only to chase each other around the globe and, as Zarrinkelk later explained to the audience, make love off-screen.
Zarrinkelk, in the interview with The Dartmouth, said that the primary goal of his work is to share cultural and artistic expressions on a global scale so that suffering and war can be avoided.
“My main concern in art is how to send the message of peace and friendship and love, and how to spread it around so that everybody knows about every other nation,” Zarrinkelk said.