Engaging With the Camera

by deirdre Kelly

When a gay friend died under mysterious circumstances in her native Iran, Atefeh Khademolreza (MFA ’19) felt compelled to speak out in the most effective way she knew how – by making a film.

Meteor, a short feature that debuted at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, exposes the state’s decades-long oppression of women and members of Iran’s LGBTQ+ community. The film was accepted to the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival and Film Fund – an Academy Award-qualifying festival – taking place in Palm Springs, Calif., in March. 

“As I grappled with the tragic loss of my queer friend in Iran,” said Khademolreza at the time of the premiere, “my aspiration was to lend a voice to his experiences and to all those silenced by oppressive systems.”

The film’s politically charged subject matter has made it dangerous for Khademolreza to return to her homeland for fear of arrest. 

But luckily for Khademolreza, a protege of the late Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Canada has given her a sanctuary where she can freely create films that expose “the myriad challenges people confront in their pursuit of freedom and justice.”

Khademolreza first came to Canada in 2018, to further her film studies with Canadian filmmakers Philip Hoffman and John Greyson (MA ’10) at York University. While a student in the department of Cinema & Media Arts, she found an environment where she felt empowered “to be creative and to find my own voice.” 

Today she uses that voice not just to tell compelling narratives in film, but also to agitate for positive change. 

From her home base in Toronto, Khademolreza is a vocal exponent of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolutionary movement that erupted following the brutal 2022 death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini, who died after she was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police. 

Khademolreza’s next project, a feature film whose story is set in Iran, will further the cause. “Film is a journey for me,” she says. “I’m telling a story and it has a beginning, but it doesn’t end.” ■