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Tehranto – A Rom-Com Featuring a Character with Baha’i Roots

April 23, 2023, in Articles > Videos & Film, by

I had the pleasure of attending the US premiere of the film Tehranto, a debut work by Canadian-Iranian Baha’i filmmaker Faran Moradi. It’s a love story that takes place in the vibrant city of Toronto where Badi and Sharon, two young students with very different upbringings from a divided Persian community, accidentally fall in love. While Faran is clear that the film is not Baha’i-inspired, the Baha’i Faith is a thread woven into the fabric of the story. Here’s what Faran shared with me:

Can you tell us a little bit about the film and what it’s about?

Tehranto is a rom-com about diasporic Iranians from totally different upbringings that accidentally fall in love. And I say “accidentally” because when it starts, Badi (named by his parents after the famous Baha’i) is a fairly rebellious and troubled young man, lacking any focus in his life beyond blind cultural pride, and Sharon (her white name) is a completely assimilated Iranian born in Canada with a disdain for her heritage. But when they cross paths, they begin to learn from one another and grow as individuals. 

Why was it important for you, personally, to make this film?

Iranians weren’t feeling totally represented in media–movies by Iranians that became popular only ever accentuated our sorrows, and movies by Hollywood that were about us were filled with stereotypes and often starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley as Iranians. I wanted to make a movie that starred real Iranians that reflected the warmth, love and laughter that I grew up around. On top of this, I hadn’t seen much representation of Baha’is in media, beyond projects that were specifically about the Baha’i Faith. So part of this for me was also normalising Baha’i identity by having characters in a mainstream film who just so happen to be Baha’i. 

What were some of the key elements you wanted to make sure you included in the film?

Naysan (left) and Faran (right) at the US Tehranto premiere

While it’s not a Baha’i movie, and the movie isn’t about the Baha’i Faith, coming from a Baha’i background is integral to the protagonist, and this spiritual support is what anchors his parents. So part of this is even just casually seeing the Greatest Name in Arash’s condo, Badi’s own name, or the prayer book on his desk. That being said, Badi clearly states in the film that he’s going through a time in his life where he can’t quite turn to religion–he’s on an independent journey of truth. So you’ll also see in his room scattered conflicting political and ideological texts. He’s not a model Baha’i, he’s not ascetic, nor is he an atheist–he’s not sure who or what he is. His being in Canada is also a direct result of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, but being a teenager when his family escaped, he wasn’t exactly invited to a consultation beforehand, and as a result I think he sort of resents his parents for growing up in a foreign country. The basic plot of the film is admittedly formulaic but the tattering of all of these elements are deeper reflections of the realities of a lot of youth, including Baha’i youth.

What has the response been like so far?

The response to the film has so far been largely positive. Even among professional critics, while there is sometimes criticism levied against the use of formula, many critics have also praised the film for using them as a vessel to promote deeper representation of diasporic realities. Among general audiences, the love and appreciation has been so rewarding. The years of hard work by the entire cast and crew seems to have paid off, because we’re hearing the reactions we were hoping for and people’s identities are being reflected in a way not seen before. 

What advice do you have for other Baha’is who are either filmmakers, or aspiring ones?

My general advice for filmmakers is “no off ramps”; what this means is that when you set a destination for yourself, keep moving towards it. If you have to take a detour, or make a quick stop to ensure you reach the destination in the long run, you’ve gotta do that. But don’t be discouraged and don’t get complacent if things don’t go exactly as you planned. 

In terms of more specific comments towards other Baha’i filmmakers, what I’ll say is: don’t be afraid to write flawed Baha’i characters. We’re emerging from obscurity and I think film is a powerful medium that can help us do that. If our attempts to do this are through only writing Baha’i characters as these models of purity and perfection, we’re gonna have a lot of problems. How can I write a perfect character if I’m imperfect? How can a protagonist demonstrate a journey of dramatic transformation without being met with conflict in their own character? And on a more meta-level, if Baha’is are only writing unrealistically perfect characters, it could be interpreted as sanctimonious or self-pious imagery, with insincere portrayals of peoples’ struggles. 

Thank you, Faran, for taking the time to share this with us!

Find out more about Tehranto, including how to watch it, by visiting the film’s website, or get a taste of the film by watching its trailer.

Posted by

Naysan Naraqi

Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.
Naysan Naraqi

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