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SEPIDEH: LETTERS TO EINSTEIN

Sepideh with her telescope

Sepideh with her telescope

An astronomer is threatened with death by her own family for wanting to be an astronaut. Yet fuelled by the example of role models such as Anousheh Ansari, she is resilient “After me there will be ten more doing what I’ve done. I’m not alone.” After the recent excitement for the Persied meteors passing the sky over the UK, it’s pertinent to think of others who are far away yet looking up at the same coppola. Yet in this feature film, Sepideh’s infectious passion is in stark contrast with the poker-faced resolve of her family, who want her to work the soil and give up her obvious interests in the stars and space.

Her role model Ansari by contrast, living in Dallas but born in Iran, was the fourth ever self-funded space tourist, and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station. Her memoir, My Dream of Stars was published internationally by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010 and she has since become an icon for individuals wanting to climb the heaven and see up close what they have been wondering at since childhood. But it is Sepideh’s memoirs that set the title for this film, she spends her nights exploring the secrets of the universe, and she starts every diary entry with ‘Dear Einstein….’

26229Danish director Berit Madsen and CHIME FOR CHANGE, a campaign addressing girls’ and women’s conditions worldwide, present the story of Sepideh, a young Iranian astronomer who dreams of becoming an astronaut. The main character is what really makes Sepideh – Letters to Einstein, for her direct feelings are apparent on the screen, she doesn’t hide them from the camera, and little wonder, for while she is encouraged by her friends, many pressures from society, religious and familial obligations threaten to block her path. See the trailer here, while the feature length film telling Sepideh’s full story follows later this year.

Director Berit Madsen is a social anthropologist and documentary filmmaker from Denmark who has carried out fieldwork in the Caribbean, Nepal, Niger and her home country. She produced a number of documentary films as part of her ethnographic research. Much like Kim Longinotto (Divorce Iranian Style) her films lie within the genre of observational cinema, with an emphasis on the relationship across the camera and on using the camera as a tool for investigation.

With support from high profile individuals such as Beyonce, Salma Hayek and Frida Giannini of Gucci, Chime for Change is supporting Madsen, and fighting the corner for kids without much else but hope, a concert was held in London on June 1st 2013 to raise money and awareness to keep the project going. Every kid should be free to wish on a star.

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