The world premieres of "Joonam", a documentary about a family made up of three generations of Iranian women now living in the American state of Vermont, and "The Persian Version", a colorful comedy-drama that goes from Iran in New York over several decades, took place on Saturday.

"Shayda", a drama film directed by Noora Niasari about an Iranian woman fleeing her abusive husband in Australia, had made its debut earlier at Sundance, a prestigious independent festival organized in Utah.

Their inclusion in the program comes after four months of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The young woman had been arrested by the morality police for violating the strict dress code imposed on women in the Islamic Republic.

At least 481 people have been killed in the crackdown and at least 109 others face the death penalty in connection with the protest.

Four people have already been executed, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights.

"The protesters are literally risking their lives...I support them 100%," said "Joonam" director Sierra Urich.

"You can't speak freely in Iran, they put filmmakers and artists in jail," she told AFP.

"I can speak freely outside of Iran - up to a point."

Iranian authorities have arrested several well-known names in the country's film industry.

The famous director Jafar Panahi, sentenced years ago for "propaganda against the regime", has been in detention for six months.


US-born Sierra Urich cannot travel to Iran for security reasons.

Her film chronicles her attempts to connect with the country and understand it better, by learning Farsi and interviewing her mother and grandmother.

Sierra Urich and Mitra Sammi-Urich attend the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah (USA) © Unique Nicole / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

She learns of the murder of an ancestor as well as the story of her grandmother, married at 14 to a man she met even before puberty.

If her grandmother has no problem going back to her memories, her mother is worried, judging it "very dangerous" to retrace the family's past in a film, warning her daughter that in Iran , "the filmmaker is the one who finds himself hanged".

"Coming to Sundance, the film is on the world stage. I think Iranians are always wondering how much they are going to tell the truth", because what they say can have "consequences for the people there "Sierra Urich said.

"It was only when my grandmother revealed the story of her grandfather's martyrdom that I truly understood this wall of fear built by the authoritarian regime, for so many people in Iran, outside of it. Iran. My mother was trying to protect me from this reality".


In "The Persian Version", Leila, a rebellious young American of Iranian descent portrayed by Layla Mohammadi has a difficult relationship with her mother, due to Leila's sexuality and their seemingly different views on the role of women.

But when she learns the truth about her parents' life in Iran and their departure from the country, the two women's perspective on their complex heritage changes.

"I am proud to have an Iranian film here today about women," director Maryam Keshavarz said at the film's premiere, during which actors wore badges in the colors of the Iranian flag crossed out with the iconic slogan " Woman Life Freedom".

Layla Mohammadi attends the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah (USA) © Michael loccisano / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

"I think that says a lot about the resilience that's been going on for decades, not just now. It's been in the making for a long time," she added.

"Even before this regime, women have always fought against society for what they wanted. They have upset the norms and learned to find their way to be free".

Maryam Keshavarz has not been able to return to Iran since the release of her first film "In Secret", about the love story between two Iranian teenagers.

Sierra Urich still hopes to be able to visit Iran one day.

She observes the demonstrations from afar and hopes that her film will be "a small part of this fight for freedom".

© 2023 AFP