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#20: The Glass House

Directed by: Hamid Rahmanian
2008 / 92 mins
Persian with English Subtitles

The fringes of Iranian society can be a lonely place, especially if you are a teenage girl with few resources to fall back on. The Glass House follows four girls striving to pull themselves out of the margins by attending a one-of-kind rehabilitation center in uptown Tehran.  Forget about Iran that you’ve seen before.  With a virtually invisible camera, the girls of The Glass House take us on a never-before-seen tour of the underclass of Iran with their brave and defiant stories: Samira struggles to overcome forced drug addiction; Mitra harnesses abandonment into her creative writing; Sussan teeters on a dangerous ledge after years of sexual abuse, and Nazila burgeons out of her hatred with her blazing rap music. This groundbreaking documentary reflects a side of Iran few have access to or paid attention to: a society lost to its traditions with nothing meaningful to replace them and a group of courageous women working to instill a sense of empowerment and hope into the minds and lives of otherwise discarded teenage girls.

Hamid Rahmanian (born 1968) is a New York-based Iranian filmmaker and graphic artist. He received his B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Tehran University and his M.F.A. in Computer Animation from Pratt Institute.  In 1992, he received the highest honor and was awarded recognition as the youngest professional designer in Iran, and “The First Place College Award” from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He has been commissioned to do work for cultural organizations and commercial companies including the United Nations, GQ magazine, the Lincoln Center, the Tribeca Film Institute, Pacifica Radio/Democracy Now!, Aramex, and the Eurasia Foundation.

In 1998, Mr. Rahmanian left Disney and established his own production company, Fictionville Studio.  His first 35 mm short film, AN I WITHIN, received Kodak’s “Best Cinematography Award”, “Best American Short” from the LA International Short Film Festival and ”Special Achievement Award” from the USA Film Festival.  He went on to make three documentaries. BREAKING BREAD (2000) and SIR ALFRED OF CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT (2001, the story on which Spielberg’s The Terminal was based) were well received by the media and worldwide audiences.  SHAHRBANOO (2002) first premiered on PBS station WNET where it received the highest rating for an independently produced documentary and has been broadcast on networks around the globe.  His first feature-length fiction film, DAY BREAK (2005) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, went on to screen at festivals and theaters all over the world, including the Venice and Tribeca Film Festivals in 2006 and won numerous international awards.  THE GLASS HOUSE (2008) a feature-length documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and IDFA and was the winner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Human Rights Award, among other awards.  His films have been used in the NGO sector to combat negative stereotypes about Iranians, to promote anti-capital punishment laws in the US, and to raise funds and awareness for the plights of disadvantaged women and girls around the world. His films have been televised on international networks, including PBS, Sundance Channel, IFC, Channel 4, BBC, DR2, and Al Jazeera.

Hamid Rahmanian has co-founded and was President (2004-2007) of the non-profit organization ARTEEAST, a leading New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging a growing global audience with the contemporary arts of the Middle East and North Africa. He was recently awarded a 2014 John Guggenheim Fellowship Award