By Fred Parvaneh

Who were the first actresses in the history of Iranian cinema, and who are the female performers of today? A new documentary screened in L.A. last weekend brought answers to those questions – with Hollywood actress Shohreh Aghdashloo present both on screen and off.

A sold-out audience attended the February 19 movie premiere of Bahman Maghsoudlou’s “Razor’s Edge: The Legacy of Iranian Actresses” at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Sponsored by the Honar Foundation, the documentary tells the story of Iranian actresses from the 1930s to the present – through rare film clips and unprecedented access to the performers themselves.

The QA panelists (L to R): Zinat Moadab, Bahman Maghsoudlou, Partow Nooriala, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Fakhri Khorvash, Mary Apick, Vida Gharemani and Moderator Homa Sarshar.

Several of the actresses in the documentary then participated in a post-screening panel discussion (held in Persian). Besides Aghdashloo, they included Mary Apick, Vida Ghahremani, Fakhri Khorvash, Zinat Moadab and Partow Nooriala. The panel was moderated by the journalist and author Homa Sarshar, founder of the Honar Foundation.

Aghdashloo said that she found it no different working in the U.S. today than working in Iran in the mid-to-late-1970s.

Director, Dr. Bahman Maghsoudlou. Photograph: Honar Foundation/Vafa Khatami

“Maybe here and there, and exceptionally, there were people who looked at us actresses a bit differently, but in our generation, Iranians had great respect for actors, and for women working” in film, she said.

“If an actress was thirsty, she wouldn’t get a drink of water any quicker than a man would,” she added. “I didn’t see any differentiation between male and female actors in my time.”

Co-host and event organizer, Bita Milanian. Photograph: Fred Parvaneh

The movie’s director, Dr. Bahman Maghsoudlou is a U.S.-educated producer and director who has dedicated his life to documenting Iranian cinema.

The pre-screening reception was attended by many of L.A.’s prominent Iranian-Americans, and co-hosted by Bita Milanian. Also present were Haleh Javanshir, the movie’s editor, and her cameraman husband Serge Hamad.

All proceeds from the sale of tickets were donated to benefit the movie, which will now be submitted to major international film festivals.

The documentary trailer