As host of Link TV's Bridge to Iran series, Parisa Soultani provides the through line and thread between the films by Iranian directors, along with the insight, knowledge, and narrative on these film's visionaries.
As senior web producer at Cultural & Educational Media (CEM) Productions, Soultani uses the device of media to paint a more accurate portrait of her people. "I find media to be a very powerful tool in general, to give a very real image of the other. It also can be used as the opposite--it has been used to further stereotypes and present a negative image of the other person. But media can be used as a counterforce."
That counterforce took further shape through her co-producing of One Through Love. One Through Love's focus is the poetry and teachings of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Rumi) a 13th-century Persian jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. This innovative and interactive program brings together a group of knowledgeable Rumi “Lovers” and others who join in conversation about Rumi's work and impact, and how Divine Love is the central, binding force of all creation.
"Rumi comes from the Persian mystical tradition, it's a rich part of the Iranian culture," Soultani said. "One Through Love delivers the message of that higher essence that connects us all. Bridge to Iran delivers it on a very immediate level. It gives the American and the Iranian American a real, unbiased image of a rich and multifaceted people."
Soultani has a passion and a unique skill set for this work, as well as a wealth of accomplishments that exceed her 31 years. Soultani studied Software Engineering at Tehran Azad University, Iran and Computer Technology and Information Systems at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. She graduated from the International Business department at Sacramento State University, with a Bachelor of Arts. Soultani is fluent in four languages: Farsi, Turkish, Azeri, and English, and is also versed in Qur'anic Arabic.
Season 2 of the Bridge to Iran series aired for the first time on Los Angeles' KCET from October 29 through November 26, 2013. The series is still available to view online through December.
"These films give not only the Americans, but the Iranian-Americans an opportunity to see those different perspectives and to see the common thread."
Soultani's mission-oriented drive and excitement upon delivering this content is akin to a life calling. When asked about her thoughts on this, Soultani seemed taken aback by the designation. "I never thought of it as my life's calling, but when I do this work, I feel that I am truly connecting to something that runs really deep inside me. It's this feeling that I know I am doing a service not just to a certain group of people, but all peoples. Just being a part of that gives me the satisfaction to keep going."
CEM Productions acts as a perfect partner to her vision. This small non-profit located in the Bay area of California strives to bring together and unify people and audiences worldwide through the medium of film and web-based programming. They manage to do this through donations and fundraising, usually on a shoestring budget with very little staff.
"You just have to have a lot of love and drive behind the work you do and keep going," Soultani said.
In keeping with the vision of connecting people, Soultani spearheads other projects that fall within this theme. Global Spirit, a hosted series that intertwines studio conversations with film segments has been airing on Link TV and PBS. "The last one that we're working on is called 'Stories to Remember.' Every 1-hour episode takes on a philosophical, existential question."
Soultani and CEM are also working hard to launch Season 3 of Bridge to Iran. "The plan is by mid-2014 we should be wrapping up production and getting ready to go on air. We are now fundraising for the 13-part Season 3, so we are entering a conversation with individual funders, and people who have funded the series before. We have also launched an Indi-Go-Go campaign, which is actually embedded into our homepage at bridgetoiran.org."
Soultani believes that a conversation about Iranians and their multifaceted world is long overdue. "The Iranian-American community has been split over many decades over political points of view. The community spends a lot of time on what went wrong. At the end of the day, it does not matter. What the youth cares about is not what Shah did 30 years ago, we care about right now, and how are we finding our voice and identity as part of this multicultural, multidimensional nation like the USA, and how do we stay connected to our culture and who we are."