The following is a press release from Santa Monica Community College.
“Azizam”—a Santa Monica College (SMC) student film—has been accepted into The American Pavilion Emerging Student Showcase during the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. The showcase runs May 20-27, 2023. “Azizam” will screen in the “Student Short Films” category; Santa Monica College is the only community college in this category, alongside student films from USC and UCLA.
“Azizam” is SMC’s eighth student film to be accepted into the showcase (SMC’s 2021 entry, “Broken Layers”, won Best Short). Written and directed by SMC student Alci Rengifo and produced by Jose Gutierrez and Katia Arami, “Azizam” is set in 1971 Iran. Two young students from opposite ends of society meet by the sea in a time where revolution hangs in the air. Bijan (Shahrooz Mahmoodi), the son of aristocrats close to the Shah’s regime, prepares to leave for college and feels the pressures of a future already decided by his powerful father. He meets Layla (Rana Ghiassi), a girl from the “wrong side of Tehran”, who forces him to question everything. Their bond will challenge class and social divisions in a world soon to disappear.
“When we began making Azizam the challenge was to tell this story in a way where we could prove the power of film to erase artificial boundaries,” said Alci Rengifo. “Although I am Latino, I grew up hearing about the Iranian Revolution through my mother, a Salvadoran immigrant who met Iranian students about to participate in the revolution when she moved to the United States in the 1970s. My hope was to challenge how that particular era tends to be seen purely from a western perspective in mass media.”
Rengifo further stated that “Azizam” was filmed before the current, women-led uprising in Iran, “so it is also stirring to see history catch up with our film.” “‘Azizam’ is about how history is a human experience and how the past is mere prologue. In that spirit, I want to express support for the Iranian people’s ongoing struggle and its powerful slogan of ‘Woman Life Freedom,’” he added.
In addition to Mahmoodi and Ghiassi, “Azizam” stars Zina Torab, Afshin Katanchi, Nakta Pahlevan, Ali Azizian, and Wayne Hodges. Other credits include SMC film production faculty lead Salvador Carrasco as executive producer; Vishal Solanki, cinematographer; Joelle Brianne Graham, editor; Valeria Zuniga, production design. Students from Prof. Carrasco’s SMC Film Production classes acted as crew members. The original soundtrack was by Juan-Salvador Carrasco and Kazumo Asai, recorded by Astral Mixtape. ‘Azizam’ was filmed at Corona Del Mar State Beach, found after a long search for a locale that could emulate certain coastal areas of Iran.
“’Azizam’ is the quintessential example of the “global citizenship” approach to filmmaking that we embrace at the SMC Film Production Program,” said Salvador Carrasco. “The film was written and directed by a half-Salvadoran, half-Colombian student who immersed himself in the specificity and complexities of Persian culture (‘Azizam’ takes place in 1971 Iran and is spoken in Farsi) and, with the collaboration of a talented cast and crew, managed to achieve a powerful cinematic story that transcends borders and achieves a truly universal dimension.”
Several films that have played at The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase have gone on to be shortlisted for Academy Award nominations. For more information on The American Pavilion at Cannes, visit www.ampav.com.
SMC offers an Associate of Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in Film Production. To learn more, visit www.smc.edu/filmproduction or email Carrasco_Salvador@smc.edu. The film program—as well as the films that come out of it— is on YouTube as the “Santa Monica College Film Program” channel.