Filmmaker sheds lights on 500-year-old culture in southern Iran

World Today

Africa hardly comes to mind when you think of Iran, but one community is trying to change that perception.

About 500 years ago, Portuguese traders brought thousands of Africans to the port of Bandar Abbas, located in the southern part of Iran. Most were sold to other countries as slaves, but some stayed and later started a community.

Today, they are known as Afro-Iranians; a community with deep roots in Africa that has kept their culture alive through rituals and ceremonies.

Filmmaker sheds lights on 500-year-old culture in southern Iran

Filmmaker sheds lights on 500-year-old culture in southern Iran

Iranian filmmaker Kamran Heidari spent over a year in the Afro-Iranian community. His documentary, "Dingomaro," named after one of Africa’s wildest winds, is a result of his stay.

Perhaps most fascinating of all is their unique music. Whether in celebrations or funerals, no major life occasion goes by without it. Walking down the streets of Bandar Abbas, it’s not out of ordinary to see a group of women in the middle of the day, wearing colorful clothing, dancing the streets to celebrate an upcoming wedding.

Iranian filmmaker Kamran Heidari spent over a year in this community. Heidari said he was immediately introduced to another world — a world that mesmerized him with its warm hospitality. Amazed by their culture, he decided to dig deeper. His documentary, “Dingomaro,” named after one of Africa’s wildest winds, is a result of his stay.

This wild wind has a significant meaning in Afro-Iranian culture. They believe if you’re captured by it, the Dingomaro can take you far, far away.

The film follows Hamid, a musician persing his biggest dream: to carry on the legacy of African music passed down from his ancestors. Hamid said he is captured by Dingomaro, and travels all over Bandar Abbas to play music with his fellow musicians.

Heidari said he wants to show the true side of life: a side far away from politics, stereotypes, and negativity often portrayed by media.

“Whenever I get invited to different film festivals, people often ask me different questions about Iran,” he told me. “Questions that suggest they have a rather negative perspective of the country. I try to minimize that image as much as I can in my films.”

And arguably, he may have done just that in this documentary.