Persian Academic & Cultural Student Association at University of Southern California


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Starless Dreams رویاهای دم صبح

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A stark testimonial of the previously unseen and unheard, award-winning Starless Dreams plunges us into the lives of young teenage girls sharing temporary quarters at a rehabilitation and correction center on the outskirts of Tehran. An unforgettable cinematic portrayal of restored innocence and humanity Starless Dreams is the last installment of the groundbreaking documentary trilogy Youth Behind Bars: The Iran Trilogy.

Considered one of Iran’s most prominent filmmakers, Mehrdad Oskouei spent seven years securing access to a female juvenile rehabilitation facility on the outskirts of Tehran. The result is Starless Dreams, a haunting portrait of stolen childhood, and a stark testimonial of the previously unseen and unheard.

Starless Dreams plunges into the lives of seven young teenage girls (Khatereh, Masoumeh, Ghazal, Somayeh, Nobody, Hasrat and 651) sharing temporary quarters at the rehabilitation center. As the New Year approaches, the girls bond. In intimate and layered interviews with Oskouei, the girls reveal with disarming and often playful honesty the circumstances and acts that resulted in their incarceration. Masoumeh, along with her sister and mother, killed her abusive father. Nobody explains that she was arrested for “adultery, armed robbery, the brothel.” 651 declares her name from the number of grams of cocaine she was found carrying. Outside the prison walls, danger is everywhere, even within their own families (virtually all of the girls have been “bothered” by male relatives). Such is the case for Khatereh, who feels her tumultuous life has aged her to the point where she longs for death.

Inside, the girls seek solace and comfort with each other and wonder about the coming year. Some wish to reunite with their families--Ghazal yearns to be with her infant daughter. Others wish to escape their families and form surrogate families within the center’s walls and a sisterly bond brings the girls to sing and dance with hope. It also allows them to share their tears. With incredible empathy, Starless Dreams delivers an unforgettable cinematic portrayal of restored innocence and humanity.

Exploring questions of crime and delinquency among Iranian youth, Starless Dreams follows It’s Always Late for Freedom (2008) and The Last Days of Winter (2011) in Oskouei’s award-winning documentary trilogy. While Starless Dreams portrays the female experience in Iran’s juvenile justice system, the first two installments focus on boys behind bars.

This screening was made possible by the generous support of Farhang Foundation (