Close Up: The Podcast

At Close Up, we are always exploring more ways to highlight, celebrate, and discuss the meaningful work of Southwest Asian and North African documentary filmmakers… and so we decided to do so through podcasting, bringing the words of SWANA filmmakers straight from their minds to your ears.

In Southwest Asia and North Africa, “official” narratives often stifle complex cultural legacies. The Close Up podcast dives deep with filmmakers to explore cultural and historical identity and what it means to be an independent artist today, with all its complexities ⁠—  its vivacity and spirit, diversity and paradoxes. What unfolds is an imaginary space in which we challenge our realities while regaining our rich inclusive society.

Episode 2: The Role of Artists in Iran Today

Our second podcast episode features a conversation between three Iranian artists academics and activists. Sepehr Atefi and Kaveh Azarhoosh are both Close Up filmmakers and activists who participated in our program in 2021-2022 with their project Radio Berlin. In this conversation, they are joined by Maryam Palizban, an Iranian actress and scholar based in Berlin.

The last few months and the protests that have followed the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 have been transformative months for the Iranian community. What you are about to listen in this podcast provides an honest and open conversation amongst three artists that invites the listeners to hear their personal reflections, thoughts and emotions on the current situation in Iran.

Throughout the discussion many significant themes emerge such as the shifting boundaries between inside and outside Iran, the spirit of solidarity behind the protests, the activist work that is currently happening in Iran to resist the brutal oppression, democratisation of peoples’ voices and stories, and the vital urgency and importance of the creative work done by independent artists and cinema community.


Kaveh Azarhoosh was born in Iran in 1988 and migrated to the UK at the age of 15. He studied British Politics and Legislative Studies at the University of Hull and later he gained a Master’s degree in Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford. Currently, he is doing his PhD in History at the King’s College London. Over the last 10 years, Kaveh has been working as a policy analyst and campaigner focusing on access to the internet and fighting censorship.


Sepehr Atefi was born in Iran in 1989. At the age of 18, he was denied the right to attend university in Iran due to official regulations barring Baha’is from higher education. At that point, he became a human rights activist. Sepehr left Iran, and after a short stay in Turkey in 2010, was invited by the German Government to Germany as a political guest. Since then Sepehr has graduated from Bauhaus-Universität Weimar with a MA in Media Arts. Over the last ten years, Sepehr has continued his advocacy for human rights in Iran. As a freelance journalist, Sepehr has worked with leading media outlets such as BBC and Radio Free Europe. Currently, he is working as a Multimedia journalist and Filmmaker at Assoo.org, where he made two documentaries “Among Us” in 2021 and “Eternal Flame” in 2023.


Dr. Maryam Palizban is a theater scholar, writer/poet, actress, and director. In Iran, she is well known as an actress through films such as Deep Breath (Festival de Cannes, 2003), Fat Shaker (winner of Tiger Award, Rotterdam Film Festival, 2013), LANTOURI (Berlinale, 2016), and as a poet. She holds a PhD from Freie Universität Berlin, and from ZfL where she wrote about “Figurations of the Martyr” in the Taʿziya, the Iranian-Shiite theatre ritual, published in 2017 with the title “Performativität des Mordes”. Palizban was a research fellow at Käte Hamburger Kolleg, CERES, at RUB Bochum with the project “The Theatrical Space of Beliefs” and is currently a visiting scholar at Zentrum für Islamische Theologie, Münster University, and selected as a fellow 2022 at Schloss Wiepersdorf. She has published widely on cultural and religious studies in German, English, and Farsi.

Episode 1: Ethics & Politics of Representation

In our first episode, we feature a conversation between filmmakers Jude Chehab from Lebanon and Ruzgar Buski from Turkey who participated in the Close Up program between 2020-2021. They discuss various aspects of documentary filmmaking, defining oneself in one’s given circumstances, and navigating the international industry while challenging its status quos.


Rüzgâr Buşki is an artist, director and producer from Istanbul based in Berlin. Their artistic practice varies within printmaking, performance, video and film. They explore themes such as belonging, affect, desire and tradition. Buşki produces and directs hybrid documentaries by building empowering productions for and with marginalised communities. They are one of the founders of Kanka Productions, a trans-feminist creative hub. Buşki studied Journalism in Istanbul University and Fine Arts in Berlin University of Arts and graduated with a Meisterschüler title from the class of Prof. Dr. Hito Steyerl. In 2019 they received the Zeliş Deniz Queer Cinema Award. They are also the winner of Karl Hofer Prize 2019. Their works have been shown in numerous spaces and institutions, which include documenta14, DOK Leipzig, Seattle Transgender Film Festival and Schwules Museum Berlin.


Jude Chehab is a multi-award winning DP and feature filmmaker based between New York and Beirut. Her cinematic interests have drawn Jude to the exploration of the esoteric, the spiritual and the unspoken. A richly layered visual and intimate personal shooting style developed under the mentorship of Abbas Kiarostami’s final student group; Jude has been credited in collaborations with the BBC, Refinery29, Oxfam GB, and Doctors Without Borders. Her work has been awarded fellowships through: CAAM, NeXtDoc, Points North Institute, Firelight Media and Close Up. Jude is currently in production on her first feature documentary based in Lebanon and has been supported by: IDA, ITVS, TFI, Sundance and recently was awarded First Prize in the Docs in Progress program at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival. Filmmaker Magazine named her one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2021.