Screening & Discussion: 3rd i NY presents: Pearls on the Ocean Floor

Mon, February 20, 2012 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all screening & discussions »)

Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Screening to be followed with Q&A with director Robert Adanto, and artist Sara Rahbar featured in the film.

Tickets: $10 regular admission / $5 member admission (cash only, payable at the door)

Robert Adanto's "Pearls on the Ocean Floor" is a thought-provoking, feature-length documentary examining the lives and works of Iranian female artists living and working in and outside the Islamic Republic. This unflinching and incisive study, featuring interviews with art luminaries Shadi Ghadirian, Shirin Neshat, Parastou Forouhar, Sara Rahbar and others, captures the uncertainty of this momentous time in Iran's history. Speaking with grace and honesty, these brave women express what is seldom seen in the western media: unique individual perspectives regarding issues of identity, gender, and the role that art plays in challenging the traditional stereotypes often associated with women in Iran.

Watch clips from the film here and here.

"Pearls on the Ocean" was an Official Selection at the UK Iranian Film Festival in London, The Glasgow International Film Festival, The New Orleans Middle East Film Festival, The Petaluma International Film Festival and the film received the Bronze Palm Award for Best Documentary at the this year's Mexican International Film Festival. In October 2011, "Pearls on the Ocean Floor" was an Official Selection for 10th International Exile Film Festival, which took place in Göteborg, Sweden and in November, the film screened at the XIII International Festival of Independent Film: PURE DREAMS, which took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in December at the 8th ION International Film Festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In September of 2011, Pearls on the Ocean Floor was screened at the The European Conference of Iranian Studies organized every four years by the Societas Iranologica Europaea and considered the largest event in the field of Iranian studies in Europe. The 7th edition of the conference was hosted by the Institute of Oriental Philology, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. In addition, Mr. Adanto's film has enjoyed screenings at The Smithsonian Institution, The MFA Boston, LACMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Orange County Museum of Art in association with the California Biennial, Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and San Francisco Art Institute.

Film Reviews

“With so much impressive art to draw on, this film is a visual treat, but what really elevates it as a documentary is the strength of the interviews - strong voices with sometimes clashing agendas, each offering a unique perspective on a country 'which seems to have a revolution every 30 years.' Iran is in flux and none of the women speaking here is sure what the outcome will be, though many are hopeful. It’s often said that suffering makes a great artist, and this film suggests that the suffering of a nation can have a similar effect.”

-UK film critic Jennie Kermode writes inEye For Film

"Filmmaker Robert Adanto’s new documentary 'Pearls on the Ocean Floor' confronts and then strips away the clichés surrounding the chador through interviews with Iranian women artists. As in the fairy tale of the ugly duckling, a beautiful swan emerges from the darkness of this history in the body of work done by these courageous women artists. .....making 'Pearls on the Ocean Floor' a wonderful rescue mission in raising these “pearls” to public view (and) inspiring the viewer to reexamine what they thought they knew about Iran and the black swans hidden beneath the infamous chador.

-Bob Duggin writing in

About the Filmmaker
Robert Adanto
made his debut feature-length documentary in 2008 with "The Rising Tide", a film exploring China’s meteoric march towards the future via the works of some of the Middle Kingdom's most talented photographers and video artists, including the celebrated Wang Qingsong, Cao Fei, Xu Zhen, Yang Yong, Chen Qiulin, BirdHead, and O Zhang. Shot in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen in the summer of 2006, "The Rising Tide" captures the confusion and ambiguity that characterize the new China. “An often surprising and thought-provoking documentary,” wrote WICN’s Mark Lynch, “The rest of us better make an effort to grasp what their work is about, or get out of the way. An “eye-opener” in every sense of the word, if you are an artist, curator or art teacher be sure to catch this film.” Richard Vine, Senior Editor, Art In America and author of New China, New Art wrote, "If you want a living sense of China’s contemporary art scene—and the artists who are shaking it up—check out Robert Adanto’s 'The Rising Tide'. It reveals some of the brightest and best new talents, capturing their works, their words, and their faces amid a swiftly changing environment."

The film has also enjoyed screenings at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, The National Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow, The Worcester Art Museum, and was also featured at The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, screening in conjunction Shanghai Kaleidoscope, an exhibition curated by Christopher Phillips of the International Center for Photography in NY. In May of 2009, the film screened in association with Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA. In June, the film made its Australian premiere in conjunction with The China Project at The Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. In October of 2009, the film will screen in association with Reversed Images: Representations of Shanghai and Its Contemporary Material Culture at The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

He is currently working on "Darkly Digital & Divine", a film exploring the "post-photographic" world through interviews with some of the most celebrated image-makers creating, altering, layering, and enhancing digital photographs. Darkly Digital & Divine features Erwin Olaf, Ruud van Empel, Oleg Dou, Emily Allchurch, Sabine Pigalle, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Lisa Holden, Jonny Briggs, Jamie Baldridge, Mel Bagshaw, Michel Valentino, Carla Gannis, Bernd Preiml, Clinton Fein, Tereza Vlckova, Jasper de Bejier, Katerina Belkina, and Ester Janssen.


About 3rd i NY

3rd I New York’s monthly film/video/media salon is designed by local filmmakers and cultural producers to showcase the works of independent media makers of South Asian, Central Asian, and Arab descent. Providing alternative forums for these filmmakers who often have few venues to showcase their work and whose cultures and histories are often demonized or misrepresented in mainstream media, not only increases their visibility, but also provides a social forum for peers and audiences to participate in an ongoing discussion.

Our Sponsors

3rdi NY Film Programming is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by New York State Council on the Arts, and the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, both in partnernship with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Alwan for the Arts hosts our monthly screenings series. We are thankful to the SINGH Foundation for acting as our fiscal sponsor.

Last updated: 2012-02-27 22:43:34

Pearls on the Ocean Floor
Pearls on the Ocean Floor
Robert Adanto
Robert Adanto
Sara Rahbar's
Sara Rahbar's "After You, A series of 24" (2007) courtesy the artist.

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia