Local Advocates Have Banded Together to Raise Funds
By Keemia Zhang
Advocates, journalists, and community members attended a sold-out gala late last month in support of a documentary being produced on Iranian women journalists.
Hosted by the Upper West Restaurant in Santa Monica, the event’s headliner included California State Senator Ben Allen, activist, academic, philanthropist, and expert on antisemitism, Sharon Nazarian, commentator, recognized human rights advocate and recipient of the Senate District 24 Woman of the Year award, Maryam Zar and Iranian actor and entertainer, Ardavan Mofid.
Other special guests include Apple TV+’s Tehran star Shaun Toub, World Police Martial Arts Champion Grandmaster Ladan, fashion designer Dona Daneshi, actress and model Shiva Negar, and artists from around the world, including celebrated photographer Christian Witkin, Israeli Jewelry designer Ayala Bar, artists Farid Kia, Jordi B, Paula Rosen, Andi Arnovitz and Debbie Singer. The event was also sponsored by Ladan Homayoon Sefat’s gym, Ladan’s Sanctuary, and Dr. Sean Mohtashami’s 4M Implant Dental Center and emceed by David Diaan.
The documentary’s producer, journalist Poppy Farsijani (CBS, BBC), aims to inform “about women’s civic liberties, and how they don’t have it – and about the state of media in Iran.”
The film will tell Farsijani’s story, alongside those of other women who suffered journalist abuse working for Iran’s news agency, IRIB. The documentary follows the release of a short film Farsijani previously produced entitled “Woman.Life.Freedom. Athlete Abuse”, covering human rights violations of Iranian Olympic athletes – particularly female players – which is set to screen at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento on Friday, November 17, 2023.
Farsijani remarked that “with the eruption of the Women, Life, Freedom movement, I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.” Raised in Brooklyn, she spent the ages 16-22 in Iran, working first in sports journalism before being “terminated for reasons that weren’t in my control” relating to religious expression. “Nobody really knows what goes inside the media [in Iran], and I was media there. I felt like there was a voice calling me. At the time, I had no ambition nor the courage to tell my story.”
The journalist, who relocated to LA to spend seven months putting together the gala, declared the results “phenomenal.” The gala permitted the team to “make the trailer and allowed us to raise more funds,” with Farsijani labeling the event as “the sizzle” before the big production. The documentary, which she refers to as “very revealing” and akin to an Erin Brockovich-style exposé, is still in pre-production, with “well-known” partners to be announced.
Members of the community who wish to support the documentary can make tax-deductible donations to From the Heart Productions 501(c) through PayPal.