Farid Pouya: Please tell us about your project and its objectives in Iran?
Paris Marashi: People always ask me what Iran is like. I really wanted to be able to share with people my experiences of what life is like there, as I was tired of how much of the mainstream media was concerned with political/nuclear issues. I wanted to show a real and personal perspective of Iran.
FP: What is the importance of vlogging for you? What is its added value?
PM: Vlogging immediately opened up the things I wanted to share about my life in Iran to the rest of the world. Today I do something; tonight I post it online; tomorrow someone watches it. It is fascinating how it opens up what you are doing to a global audience. Once something is uploaded on the Internet, or on your videoblog, it is at the hands of the world and available for them to see. This is so meaningful and powerful — and I am so grateful that there are these kinds of opportunities in the world for people to learn about each other.
FP: How do you see the importance of vlogging among Iranian bloggers or Iranian internet users in general?
PM: High speed Internet is extremely expensive in Iran. It costs around $500 per month for the highest speed internet available, although there is a varying price range depending on the speed. Even though lower speeds are available for cheaper, it is still very expensive for the people, businesses, universities that use it. Many companies still use dial up, or may have a separate modem at the 60k speed. I think as more Iranian people learn about vlogging, they will value it more and be more inclined to find ways to do it—especially as high speed internet prices decrease.
FP: How did you choose your topics to shoot your short films?
PM: Sometimes I would go somewhere, shoot video, come home, and think, Aha! This is what I am going to post! Sometimes the video is just something really personal and something I feel people can relate to. Maybe I would think that the video says something that negates some specific stereotype that I feel some people may have about Iranians. Sometimes the videos just show something I find interesting, that I think others will be able to appreciate as well.
FP: You are an American-Iranian; did you feel a strong cultural difference in Iran?
PM: As I go back and forth between Iran and the US, I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to live and experience two different cultures. I can choose the customs I want to live with, the traditions I want to carry on. As time passes, I have noticed that I have a greater appreciation for certain Iranian formalities that really are such an important part of the culture. Take for example, this scenario:
I am sitting down talking to someone and my grandmother sits behind me. My back is now facing my grandmother… In this case I would either readjust myself or say, “Sorry my back is facing you.” My grandmother would then say, “A flower does not have a front or a back side”
Or, someone may say, “Your hair [skin, outfit, painting, etc.] looks beautiful!” Another may say in response, “Your eyes see my hair [skin, outfit, painting, etc.] as beautiful.”
Someone says, “I will stop by later in the day” The other may say something like, “Ghadamet roo cheshmam,” or, “Your foot may rest on my eye.”
This really does signify the great respect and importance that Iranians place on their guests, from the way they are spoken to, to the amount of care, attention, value (and of course, tea, and fruit) they are given. The Persian customs are long-lived, intricate, and complex, as is the language. I think these expressions say a lot about the way people respect one another and how refined are the poetics of the language.
FP: Any projects for the future?
PM: With node101.org and a number of people in Iran, we are working on setting up a place where the Iranian community can come together to watch videoblogs, learn how to make videoblogs (as well as upload and post video), and provide a place for people to meet with other videobloggers in Iran.
This year I am also working towards my masters’ degree at NYU, after which I plan on going to Iran to do documentary work—I really hope that our work will be able to create an experience for a viewer that is eye-opening, educational, and engaging.
I will continue posting videos from Iran on my videoblog, http://thisiranianamericanlife.blogspot.com.