PERSIAN ARTS FESTIVAL – 11th Annual Nowruz Celebration at National Sawdust

PAF 2017 flyer DRAFT-6

The Persian Arts Festival celebrates 11 years of showcasing the work of hundreds of Iranian American artists from around the world at the prestigious new Brooklyn venue, National Sawdust. The 11th Annual Persian Arts Festival will feature multiple art forms including short films curated by west coast’s Noor Iranian Film Festival, family-friendly performances of Fictionville Studio’s shadow puppet masterpiece, “Zahhak, The Legend of the Serpent King”, a panel discussion featuring Iranian American artists and scholars, Persian fusion cuisine by Rider restaurant’s critically acclaimed chef, Patric Connelly, and music by Persian tar virtuoso Sahba Motallebi accompanied by Nagmeh Farahmand. This program will transport an audience of all ages into Spring as it connects elements from thousands of years of ritual and history to the magnificent art being made by today’s Iranian American artists.  
Sponsors include The American Institute of Iranian Studies and Noor Film Festival.

Family Friendly show: $15 adults, $5 children

10am Show Tickets sold here, 12pm Show Tickets Sold here

Zahnak Image


A Persian folk tale brought to life through live music, narration and shadow puppetry by Hamid Rahmanian, the creator of the critically acclaimed “Feathers of Fire”. Taken from the Shahnameh or Book of Kings—an epic narrative penned in the 10th century by Persian poet Ferdowsi—this shadow play tells the story of a misguided prince who becomes the villainous Serpent King.



Featured artists:

Storyteller: Leila Ghaznavi
Puppeters: Jon Riddleberger, Ian Sweetman, Hamid Rahmanian
Musicians: Hedayat Shafaee, Yahya Alkhansa
Directed and designed by Hamid Rahmanian

This 15min exquisite performance will be followed by a shadow puppet-making workshop for kids.

More About Fictionville Studio: Husband and wife team Hamid Rahmanian and Melissa Hibbard are dedicated to producing artistic projects that positively affect the way people look at the world around them. They have produced award‐winning documentary and fiction film, graphic design, photography and literature for over two decades. Their films have received international awards and screened worldwide at festivals, theaters and on television. Their latest project, the Shahnameh Project includes a 600 page illustrated edition of the 1000-year-old Persian epic poem, Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings which was published in 2013. It has been well received by readers and critics around the world and has made multiple bestseller lists. In 2016 they premiered the stage production of Feathers of Fire, based on a tale from the Shahnameh. This cinematic live production premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and is currently touring around the world.

3:00PM (doors) – 9PM – MUSIC, PANEL, FILM + DINNER  
$40 advanced guarantees seat, $45 at the door. Dinner and Drinks sold separately. 

TICKETS for Family Program and the Festival available at

— MUSIC By Persian Tar Virtuoso, SAHBA MOTALLEBI, Accompanied by NAGMEH FARAHMAND on Percussion —


SAHBA MOTALLEBI is a modern virtuoso of the tar and setar, an innovator in teaching Persian Music and has been recognized as the Best Tar Player at the Iranian Music Festival four years running (1995-1998) and “The Best Tar Player” at the Toronto Conservatory of Iran (1993 – 1996). She is recognized internationally as a master of tar and setar, lute-like stringed instruments central to one of the world’s great musical traditions. She began studying music as a young girl in Sari, a small seaside city in the north of Iran. In 1993, at the age of 14, her talent garnered her an invitation to begin studies at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. She flourished there, and was recognized as Best Tar Player at the Iranian Music Festival four years running (1995-1998). After graduating from Conservatory in 1997, she helped found the groundbreaking women’s music ensemble Chakaveh, and in 1999 she was invited to join the Iranian National Orchestra, thus beginning her career as an international performer. For the past decade, Sahba Motallebi has lived near Los Angeles, She continues to perform worldwide, and has released a series of noted books and recordings, the latest of which is 2014’s A Tear at the Crossroad of Time. Sahba is also recognized as an innovator in the teaching of Persian music; her pioneering efforts to put instructional materials on the internet and to teach students online have inspired something of a renaissance in the transmission of this ancient art form, and reflect her abiding commitment to bring the gift of music to her community and the world.

NAGHMEH FARAHMAND, daughter of one of Iran’s leading percussionists, Mahmoud Farahmand, grew up surrounded by music in a full house of drums. She started playing the tonbak when she was six under the supervision of her father, and was encouraged to learn a melodic instrument to gain insight into the melodic aspect of music as this would make her a better accompanist. So she started playing the santur under the guidance of Faramarz Payvar and Pashang Kamkar. Besides learning traditional music, Naghmeh found the daf to be very powerful and spiritual and began learning Sufi and Kurdish rhythms from Bijan Kamkar and Masoud Habibi. She has performed in many well-known traditional ensembles in Iran and at festivals around the world, and was honored to perform with ney master Hassan Nahid and famed vocalist Hengameh Akhavan. In 2010, she moved to Canada and started working with musicians in world music and jazz. She is the founder of the Sharghi percussion ensemble.

— PANEL DISCUSSION —                                                                                                   The festival will begin with a discussion featuring scholar Kathryn Spellman Poots, whose work has focused on the Iranian Diaspora and transnational migration networks, Mahyad Tousi, Co-founder of BoomGen Studios and producer on Reza Aslan’s recently premiered television show, “Believer”, Persian tar virtuoso, Sahba Motallebi, who will grace us with her presence again later in the evening, and Siamak Ghahremani, founder of Noor Iranian Film Festival. This panel will be moderated by Carla P. Cota, a PhD candidate at University of Arizona with a main research interest in the connection among culture, identity and education, especially as it relates to the education of second generation children in the US.

Panelists will discuss where Iranian American arts stand today, especially in light of the current administration’s ban of certain travelers from Iran and now 5 other Muslim-majority countries. Additionally, we will explore how artistic expression may help shift public sentiment toward a more just and equitable world, or society.

— PERSIAN FUSION CUISINE – By Chef Patrick Connolly of Rider Restaurant — 
Critically acclaimed chef, Patrick Connolly, of Rider restaurant at National Sawdust, will be offering a Persian-inspired, fusion menu available for purchase during the festival’s dinner break. Be ready for an American twist on Persian cuisine filled with familiar saffron and turmeric hughes to reel you in.

— FILMS – Curated by Noor Iranian Film Festival —
Enjoy your Persian-inspired cuisine over Noor Iranian Film Festival’s award-winning selections to ring in the New Year:

No Land’s Song, by Ayat Najafi (93 minutes)

No Land's Song Image

The Islamic revolution of 1979 banned female singers from appearing in public in Iran. They are no longer allowed to perform solo, unless to an exclusively female audience. Recordings of former female icons can only be bought on the black market. But Sara Najafi is determined to refresh the cultural memory by roaming Tehran in the footsteps of famous singers of the 1920s and 1960s. She is about to revive the female voices in the present as she courageously plans an evening of Iranian and French female soloists to rebuild shattered cultural bridges—a concert that is not allowed to take place. For two-and-a-half years, director Ayat Najafi follows the preparations between Tehran and Paris that are always touch and go. What’s still possible? What goes too far? Sara’s regular meetings with the Ministry of Culture shed light on the system’s logic and arbitrariness, though officials there can only be heard and not seen. Can intercultural solidarity and the revolutionary power of music triumph? A political thriller and a musical journey, No Land’s Song never loses sight of its real center – the female voice. See trailer here.

The Role of Each Fret, by Maryam Farahzadi (9 minutes)

The union of a couple in love, by getting assistance from a joint effort of music and nature performed in Persian miniatures, from ancient land of Iran.