Synopsis: ROSHANAK “RO”, an Iranian-American teenager, is in the midst of a tonbak (Iranian hand drum) lesson. Her father, DAVOOD, listens in and worries that she won’t be ready to perform at their Persian New Year party that night. He berates her for being ill-prepared and for scheduling a study group session on such an important day. Ro rebels by beating incessantly and chaotically on the tonbak, smiling mischievously.
Ro rides her skateboard not to her study group, but to a neighborhood garage to meet up with GLENN, the lead singer of their band HEATSTROKE. They are there to practice for an upcoming “Battle of the Bands” event. ANTHONY, the bassist, surprises them with his hair dyed blue and suggests they all follow suit, to make a statement at the gig. Ro realizes the event is that night, which means it will clash with her family’s Persian New Year party. After a moment of deep thought, she pours the blue hair dye, choosing the band.
A blue-haired Ro slinks into her house, filled with Iranian guests there for the party, to join her family at the dinner table. Davood looks up from his meal and is shocked at her transformation. Ro sits to eat and announces she won’t be staying long or playing the tonbak, something she does every year. Ro blurts out that she’s in a punk band, which is news to everyone there, and that she has to leave for a show that’s very important to her. Davood forbids her from leaving, but she storms out anyway, leaving a folded-up flyer on the dining table. She angrily kicks the tonbak to the floor on her way out.
Ro applies dark eye makeup at the venue and makes her way through the bustling crowd to join her bandmates as they head onstage. They begin playing their first song, “Toxic,” to an enthusiastic and rowdy audience of punks. Meanwhile, Davood opens the flyer advertising the “Battle of the Bands” at the dining table and gets up from his seat.
Heatstroke continues to play. Anthony takes a Super 8 camera and films into the crowd, capturing the faces of moshing punks and eventually lands on Davood standing in the back, watching Ro in a state he’s never seen her before. Ro stops playing upon noticing him, and they share a moment. Total silence falls around them in a void-like state. Ro slowly starts playing the rhythm from her tonbak lesson, growing faster and more aggressive. Moved, Davood gives her a nod of approval, and Ro runs with it. Heatstroke brings the house down.
Arman Pardisi (Davood (Father))
Kyle O'Gorman (Glenn)
Cormac Dolezal (Anthony)
Maysha Mohamedi (Music Teacher)
Director Lina Larson partnered up with her close friend Ariana Skeeland, who had written a feature script which they adapted into a short film. Inspired by the diverse, female-led coming-of-age story and the world-building potential of an 80’s punk film, Lina was thrilled to be entrusted with this story. Authenticity was paramount to this film’s making so the team went to great lengths to cast an all-Persian cast, source authentic set pieces and costume, and work with a local punk band to write music for the film. Lina’s directorial vision included shooting the film on Super 16mm and Super 8, lending a nostalgic feel to a modern period-piece.
This film explores themes pertaining to Middle Eastern identity and the complexity of the bicultural experience. The co-writer and executive producer, Ariana Skeeland, is half Iranian and wrote the original story inspired by her own mother’s experience immigrating to California in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution. Lina is German-American and related to the core themes of growing up speaking two languages and living two cultures. As niche as this film is given its depiction of Persian culture, it is intended to be relatable to anyone who has struggled with the expectations of their parents as an adolescent. To assimilate into American culture, but not abandon one’s heritage. To fit in, but not to lose sight of one’s individuality. To create your own identity between two seemingly opposing worlds – in this case, traditional Iranian culture and the unruly punk scene. Both Lina and Ariana understand the complexities of existing on the border between identities and collaborated on this film together with this in mind.
Lina Larson is a German-American filmmaker who was raised in Seattle and graduated from Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and TV in 2020. She has directed numerous award-winning narrative short films that span multiple genres and is currently filming her first documentary feature. Aside from directing, Lina is an avid tennis player and a working makeup artist. She focuses heavily on visual design, telling female-driven stories, and is working towards directing narrative features.