Elham Rokni / Israel / 2018 / 22:00

The merging of fiction and reality about the refugee issue in a documentary, animation and experimental blend. A rare approach of the subject in a surreal manner.
Minikino Film Week 4
Jury's note

Director Biography – Elham Rokni
Born in Iran in 1980, just after the Islamic Revolution, and grew up in Tehran, Elham Rokni has immigrated to Israel at the age of 9. Today she lives and works in Tel-Aviv. She is a graduate of Bezalel Academy’s BFA (2007) and MFA (2010) programs and is a professor at the Bezalel Academy art department since 2013.

In her drawings and video installations she repeatedly constructs and deconstructs patterns, colors, and shapes that have to do with her childhood memories and family album from Tehran. Central to her ongoing exploration of her past is the question of how images compose memories, emotions, and personality. Her work explores an intricate, multifaceted reality, challenging the boundaries of the existing orders, physicals as well as politics.

Rokni has participated in many exhibitions and film festivals in Israel and abroad. She has received grants from the Israel lottery Foundation (2013/2015/2017), Ostrovsky Family fund, a project development grant from Artis organization (2015), The Isracard and Tel Aviv Museum of Art Prize for an Israeli Artist (2013), a young painter prize from the The Osnat Moses Prize (2013). She also received experimental film grants from the Yehushua Rabinovich Tel-Aviv Foundation (2012) and from the CCA Fund for Video Art and Experimental Cinema in Israel (2010) and received the 2011 Young Artist Prize from the Israeli Ministry of Culture . Her works can be found in various public and private collections such as the permanent collection at LACMA Los Angeles, Kadist collection Paris, Daimler Art collection, Berlin, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israeli parliament collection.

Rokni’s has presented two simultaneous solo exhibitions at 18th Street Arts Center and Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in winter 2016, and her work is in the permanent collection at LACMA in 2016.

Rokni is represented by Shulamit Nazarian gallery in LA.

Director Statement
Elham Rokni
Artist statement

I was born in Iran in 1980, just after the Islamic Revolution, and grew up in Tehran. My family immigrated to Israel when I was nine years old, knowing we will never be allowed to return to Iran again. During my adolescence, I assimilated into Israeli society, but the experience of migration, transition, and disconnection still haunts my personal life and artistic practice.

In my drawings and video installations I find myself repeatedly constructing and deconstructing patterns, colors, and shapes that have to do with my childhood memories and family albums from Tehran. Most of my drawing series — such as Wallpapers, Mosque Ral, Green Nights, Abbas and Khalili Sisters are — are based on family albums and also images found online of places in the Middle East that I cannot reach, as well as generic, Orientalist representations of the Islamic world.

My other works are dedicated to the exploration of the relationship between memories, space, and movement. For example, Yosef Abad, the multi-channel solo project on view in 2014 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, I asked someone who visited Tehran to hold a camera while I remotely directed her through my childhood neighborhood. This walk down memory lane allowed me to virtually visit Tehran and overcome the existing geopolitical borders. Another video work, The Wedding, also explores the relationship between memories and immigrations since it is based on the search for the exact date of my parents’ wedding (they got married during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, a date no-one seems to remember for sure.)

In my recent practice, I find myself preoccupied with connecting my personal experience as an immigrant to urgent political and ethical issues. I see the migration of asylum seekers and refugees to Israel as a continuation of other waves of immigration to this country. More specifically, I’m interested in the actions and notions of accessibility and free movement in relation to the dialectical development of the globalized world, namely, on the one hand, in the free movement of goods, services, and a limited number of people, and on the other hand, in fortified nations and communities, surrounded by separation walls and other barriers, and the subjects of racism and fear.

Between 2015 and 2017, I collected folktales from Sudanese and Eritrean refugees, currently the two largest asylum-seeking communities in Israel. They were heard and recorded in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Holot detention center, located deep in the Israeli desert.
These stories have a double presence: On one hand, they are manifestations of cultural expansion within Israeli society and therefore have been registered by me to be part of the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA) at the University of Haifa. On the other hand, the stories have become the main component of my artistic research, manifested in a book, titled The Iblis, the Girl, the Sultan and the Lion’s Tail – which includes the stories in Hebrew, English, Arabic (the official language of Sudan), and Tigrinya (the official language of Eritrea) – as well as my drawings, presented as illustrations to the tales. Through this complex series of actions, I hope I created a book that simultaneously functions as educational and political tool, but also as an artist book, accompanying publication of my last solo show at the Center of Contemporary Art (CCA) in Tel-Aviv (January-March 2018).

Additional Details

Director, Artist: Elham Rokni

Writer: Nir Shauloff

Key Cast: Menashe Noy “Official”, Samuel (Khamis) Elshiek “Abdulkarim”

Film Type: Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Short

Runtime: 22 minutes

Completion Date: January 16, 2018

Country of Origin: Israel

Film Language: English, Hebrew

Shooting Format: Digital

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Film Color: Color

Screenings & Awards
  • The Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv

    Israel, January 18, 2018


  • Minikino Film Week 4, Bali International Short Film Festival

    6 – 13 October 2018, Bali, Indonesia

    Best Documentary Short 2018