44. "the night" is a spooky "minari"
thinking about horror & the american dream + resources on Palestine
Hi there! 👋 I’m Ida, and this is tiny driver, a newsletter about research, pedagogy, culture and their intersections. Thank you for being here. Reach out anytime by just hitting reply, I love hearing from you.
The violent displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli settler colonial state has been disturbing and terrifying. Over the past week, I've felt both a deep anxiety over what has been happening (similar to the way I've felt during most of the horrific events of the past year) and a desire to do what I can to educate myself further. Although I work on the Iranian diaspora and have some knowledge of broader Middle Eastern history as it relates to what I research and teach, my knowledge of the Palestinian struggle for liberation is rudimentary at best.
Many friends who are much more knowledgable than I have shared resources with me for learning more about Palestinian displacement and struggle. I'd like to share them with you all as well in case you'd like to learn alongside me. I include resources here that I think are accessible, meaning: you don't have to be an academic to understand them. Thank you to Sara A. & Thamy A. for your generosity in sharing knowledge with me.
Jadaliyya's Palestine: Sheikh Jarrah, Expulsion, Occupation, and Settler Colonialism (Middle East Learn & Teach Series) is probably the most accessible and comprehensive resource that I've come across so far. The page provides learning materials that you can read, watch and listen to, whatever your preference as well.
The Funambulist's Learning with Palestine, which is currently in open access mode.
Citations Needed's Debunking the 5 Most Common Anti-Palestinian Talking Points (a podcast).
Angela Davis' Freedom is a Constant Struggle linking Palestine with the liberation movements of other minoritized populations.
If you are a scholar who teaches & does research, consider signing Palestine & Praxis, where you can see a list of commitments that the signatories (including myself) affirm regarding scholarship + teaching around Palestine and other movements of indigenous liberation.
What I consume.
For our May book club, we will be reading Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. Feel free to purchase a copy of the book here! You can find details on the book club below.
Date & Time: Monday, May 24 at 5PM PST/8PM EST
Suggested donation (for those able to donate): $3-20 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz)
Here's something about me: I love horror.
I didn't always love horror. In fact, I remember the first time I watched The Ring. I was in middle school at my friend Kaitlyn's house with some of our other friends. After the film, I needed someone to stand by the bathroom door because I was too scared to go to the bathroom on my own. Something about the mirror and the enclosed space...just not a good combination for after you watch a little girl pop out of a screen and eat a person's face off. And this was the way it was for a good portion of my life. Even if I were intrigued by a spooky movie, I would end up just reading the Wikipedia plot summary because I was too scared to actually watch the film.
I don't know what precisely was the catalyst for this shift, but a couple years ago I began consuming the horror genre more and more. However, I did soon realize that there was a trend in those films I found most interesting (Midsommar, The Ritual, The Lodge) are exploring some form of psychological turmoil that manifests in these terrifying ways. More than just jump scares, the film ends up staying with me much longer than I anticipated.
So, imagine my surprise when I learned that Hulu was streaming The Night, a film jointly produced by US & Iranian film companies. The film follows an Iranian couple as they spend the night in LA's iconic Hotel Normandie. As the night goes on, secrets between the couple come to light through very creepy scenes involving children, narrow hallways, and police officers.
Watching this movie, I was particularly struck by the use of the Persian language throughout the film. While this may have people comparing it to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I actually think that in terms of language, Minari is a more apt comparison. Yes, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has a similar creep factor to it and it's also primarily (if not entirely) in the Persian language. But the fantastical element of place—AGWHAN takes place in a town only known as "Bad City"—distances it from being grounded in a particular context of diaspora and migration.
Rather, I'd say that The Night is a sort of spooky, Iranian version of Minari. Both films deal with the interpersonal toll that migration takes on relationships. While Minari witnesses this breaking and re-making of relationship through the land of Arkansas, The Night uses the supernatural to have its characters confront their inner turmoil.
Most saliently, both films are definitively American stories—or, more specifically, stories that speak to the implications of living in America as an immigrant. Not to give too much away here, but the revelations made by the Iranian couple in The Night could have only really transpired through their particular story of migration to the United States. The use of language here is also what really drives this point home. While both are very much grounded in the specific geography of the United States—Arkansas for Minari and Los Angeles for The Night—the fact that a majority of the films' dialogues are in a foreign language speaks to the truth of what it means to be an immigrant in America. Only when the couple interacts with people outside of their immediate social circle do they switch to English, and even then, their use of the language conveys just how much is lost in translation.
While the film itself is something definitely worth watching, another critical part of this film actually has to do with its production & distribution. The Night is the first US-produced film that has been approved for theatrical release in Iran since the Iranian Revolution. On the subject, the film's director Kourosh Ahari told Salon:
I think the reason it happened was because we wanted it to happen, and we made a decision to make it happen. The opportunity has always been there, and there are, of course, differences in culture and rules and how we can present the film, but to me, it mattered because I wanted my fellow countrymen to experience something a little bit different. This genre is not celebrated in Iran, compared to other places, and I know there is a wide range of interest and fans for this genre. To be the first is an amazing coincidence.
I'm going to leave it here, mostly because I'm still thinking through the implications of this fact. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on any and/or all of this—have you seen The Night? What are your thoughts? Let me know by replying to this email or leaving a comment.
Item(s) of note.
Ok, so I feel like everyone already knows about the amazingness that is Wisdom Kaye (pictured above), but I just have to include the account here because his fashion is so amazing!!!
Tamara K. Noppers' Safe Asian Americans: On the carceral logic of the model minority myth
Rebecca Onion in (email) conversation with Alexis Coe on virality + popular history
This is what happens when Higgins sneaks a quick roll in the dirt.
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!