Feature depicts women artists living under the burqa; bows at Film Center

Filmmakers Hossein Khandan and Shahin Yazdani followed three Chicago women artists through a day in their lives that was like any other, with one exception ? the three women faced this day under the full face and body covering known at the burqa, worn by Afghani women under the Taliban regime.

The result is “American Burqa,” a feature film combining documentary and narrative elements that has its world premiere June 6 at the Film Center. It depicts the women living their personal, artistic and work lives under the burqa, then reflecting on the experience through their art ? one is a painter, one is a singer, and one is a dancer.

“We wanted to show a token of the pain all Afghani women have experienced,” said the Iranian-born Khandan, who has been based in Chicago since the early ’90s. “What if one of the thousands of limitations enforced on Afghani women was imposed on American women?”

“Burqa” is Khandan’s second feature directorial effort. His debut was the 16mm “Rodell,” the story of a Filipino-Iranian boy who uses music to transcend the linguistic and cultural barriers that separate him from his extended family. Khandan’s short films “Chrysalis” and “A Feast in the Mirror” have portrayed women contending with profound isolation.

Khandan was an assistant director for Iranian film and TV in the ’80s. He was production designer on the 1994 German film “Shadow of Fright” and the Iranian film “Sara” ? he first came to Chicago when “Sara” screened at the Film Center’s Festival of Films from Iran in 1994. Khandan was production manager on the 1998 Los Angeles production “The Last Stop” and the 2001 Argentinean picture “Dances with Dreams.”

Khandan wrote, directed and shot “Burqa” with the New Zealand-based Yazdani and produced with Laura McLuckie. Yazdani edited. Music by Axiom of Choice.

“American Burqa” screens Sunday, June 6 at 5:15 p.m. at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Khandan and cast will attend.

Reach Khandan at hosseinkh@yahoo.com or see www.americanburqa.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com