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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jafar Panahi: Inspiration from Iran

Panahi winning the Berlin Silver Bear in 2006 ...Image via Wikipedia
There is a time to unblock Facebook. Tomorrow is one of them.

History and a most admirable defense of democratic ideals has happened as Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi delivered his defense last week  in an Iranian court. He cross posted his words on his Facebook page and now these words have been reprinted in the New York Times and other locations.

He divides his speech into two parts "what they say" and "what I say."

This will definitely be assigned reading for a blog post in my eighth grade class early next week, aptly, the week of Thanksgiving.  He was arrested earlier this year while 30% through filming something that a local paper called "an anti-state film" and was held for three months of detention without trial in Evin prison in Tehran. He held a hunger strike and was released on $200,000 bond in May of this year. Perhaps if we want students to understand freedom and the price that is paid where freedom of speech does not exist, he is a great, albeit sad, case study.

My Favorite Quotations
Some of the most beautiful quotes from his speech are:
"History testifies that an artist's mind is the analytical mind of his society. By learning about the culture and history of his country, by observing the events that occur in his surroundings, he sees, analyzes and presents issues of the day through his art form to the society....
The assisination of ideas and sterilizing artists of a society has only one result: killing the roots of art and creativity....
I would like to remind the court of yet an other ironic fact about my imprisonment: the space given to Jafar Panahi's festival awards in Tehran's Museum of Cinema is much larger than his cell in prison.
All said, depsite all the injustic done to me, I, Jafar Panahi, declare once again that I am an Iranian, I am staying in my country and I like to work in my own country. I love my country. I have paid a price for this love too, and I am willin gto pay again if necessary....
I declare that I believe in the right of 'the other' to be different, I believe in mutual understanding and respect, as well as in tolerance; the tolerance that forbid me from judgment and hatred. I don't hate anybody, not even my interrogators."
Please read the entire speech it is poignant, moving, and also serves to cause one introspection on the love one has for their own country.
Asking the Questions
My question to my students after reading the entire speech will be:
"What price do people pay for love of their country besides that of serving in a war?  Do citizens pay a price? What happens when citizens are no longer willing to pay a price for the love of their country?"
I'll be thinking on this but I'd love to ask you.  After reading the speech, what questions would you ask students? What thoughts does his speech evoke in you?
Pay the Price
Great countries, communities, and schools have people willing to pay the price to make them great.
Our time. Our energy. Our creativity. Our very lives are spent watering the ground upon the living ecosystems of this world that we cherish. Where we spend our lives and our time, we see growth. Whatever we sow we also reap!
Sometimes I think many of us have forgotten the price paid.  Many countries emerged from war with a lot of back-breaking work to do.
Tough times call for tough work.
With India now teetering on a crisis due to their microloan problems and some talk of Euro instability and California continuing on budget shortfalls four of the most recent six articles delivered to my Kindle tonight were about economic instability what the world needs right now is rock solid determination and stability of purpose of those citizens who know that if our grandfathers and grandmothers can do this, then we can too.
There is a temptation to whine.
There is  a tempation to have pity.
Last I checked, if I'm on this computer and you're on yours then it is doubtful we are wandering the streets homeless as did many of our ancestors during the great Depression.
And yet, here we have an Iranian filmmaker who loves his country and is willing to pay for it with his own life by staying and being there and speaking as much as he can about injustice. He's willing to put his life where is mouth is.
That, my friends is what we need. We need people who are willing to put their life where their mouth is.
Talk Talk Talk - we need Work Work Work.
We have schools to build, students to reach, and have to creatively work on ways to educate our young while being fiscally responsible. It is going to require hard work.

With Purposeful Work Often Comes Peace.
And yet, some of the best sleep of my life has come after final exams, book deadlines, exhausting conference schedules, end of semesters. When I've spent it all for a good cause, somehow I look in my pockets and find them bursting with more.
We need men and women of character in these times. Those willing to pay the price for love of their country, their school, their professions.
There's a lot of work to do. I find myself inspired, of all people, by an Iranian filmmaker.
What an amazing world in which we live where information flows so readily. The question is, do we take information and turn it into actions? Do we pay the price like Jafar does or do we sit back as casual observers watching the world spin into confusion when we could do our part to steady at least the corner in which we work.
Remember your noble calling, teacher. And take some time to discuss the nobility among us as Jafar seems to be.
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