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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 10:54 GMT
Aghdashloo's appeal for understanding
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Aghdashloo has been in the US for 25 years
Iranian actress and Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo has said she is hopeful her new film House Of Sand And Fog will help understanding of the problems immigrants face when they come to Western countries.

Aghdashloo is up for best supporting actress at this year's Academy Awards, for playing Nadi, the wife of an exiled Iranian colonel trying to make a new life for his family in America.

When the family manage to buy a house at auction they think their luck has turned - but the former owner, played by Jennifer Connolly, returns determined to seize it from them. When the colonel refuses to sell for the price he bought the house, threats are made to deport the family.

Aghdashloo, who herself fled Iran for the US after the 1979 revolution, said she was hopeful the film could change people's attitudes.

"What I'm hoping that this film will do is not only open doors to new dialogues between west and east, but also it will open doors to new dialogues between people with different cultural backgrounds," she told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"Eventually, we're going to have to live side by side. The whole world is becoming smaller and smaller through the internet and media.

"I'm not saying let's love one another, I'm just asking for a little bit of understanding, a little bit of caring and sharing."

Metaphors

Aghdashloo was one of Iran's leading actresses before the revolution, and at the peak of her career after starring in films such as Sooteh-Delan and Gozaresh.

After the fall of the Shah, she fled to America and tried to make a name in Hollywood. However, House Of Sand And Fog is her first big English-speaking film role.

Iranian revolution
A number of Iranian immigrants left after the Revolution
She said that she identified the story as "very real."

"At one point I asked the writer Andre Dubus how he has absorbed and observed our culture," she said.

In one scene, Nadi is reduced to tears as she the threat of deportation becomes ever more real - she is terrified that should this happen her children will be shot.

"It reminds me of many of my friends - not only Iranians but also other immigrants living in either the United Kingdom or the United States, being worried all the time about being deported," she stated.

Aghdashloo is not the first Iranian in film to speak out about immigration in the US.

In 2002, director Bahman Ghobadi - director of the highly acclaimed A Time for Drunken Horses - forwarded a prize bestowed on him by the Chicago International Film Festival to President George W Bush as a protest against America's immigration policies.

Aghdashloo said there was a serious message in House Of Sand And Fog about the experience of outsiders.

"Coming from the Middle East, coming from Iran, living under heavy censorship, I tend to read all the metaphors," she said.

"When I first read this book, I started to find the metaphors and the messages of this story.

"To begin with, I thought the house was an element for a shelter - which is very important to all immigrants, all over the world, wherever they are.

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley has been Oscar nominated for his role in the film
"Shelter, bread and taking care of their kids - these are the most important things of all.

"But in the middle of the book, I realised that it's going beyond just a shelter - the message is bigger.

"The message is rather a universal question of man's quest for a piece of land - or I had better say, man's right to a piece of land.

"From then on, I kept wondering whether one day, in a highly civilised society, where men will not have to fight over a piece of land, whether land would be given to them as their right."




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