Sarah Shourd, an American who was imprisoned in Iran for 410 days, will speak about her experiences on campus tonight.
Shourd will speak at “Imprisoned in Iran: American Hikers’ Search for Freedom” which will include a screening of Jeff Kaufman’s Free Shane and Josh: An Urgent Plea for Compassion, and a panel discussion to illustrate the toll the tragedy has taken on the families of the hikers.
The event, which is sponsored by The Gould School of Law, the School of Cinematic Arts and the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, will be tonight at 7 p.m. at the School of Cinematic Arts Complex.
Iranian officials arrested Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal in July 2009 after they accidentally crossed the border into Iran, accusing them of espionage. The Iranian government freed Shourd on Sept. 14, 2010 after 410 days of imprisonment.
Shourd’s fiancé, Bauer, and Fattal, however, are still imprisoned.
The film was made to provide more information about the imprisonment as well as to help others understand the situation of the hikers.
When the film was completed, Kaufman contacted Hannah Garry, the director of USC’s Law International Human Rights Clinic. He proposed that the clinic, which is dedicated to the global human rights movement, help to publicize the film. Garry took the project a step further by contacting the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
“[The USC School of Cinematic Arts] feels that sponsoring these kinds of documentaries that raise these types of issues is part of their mission,” Garry said.
The film aims to paint a clear picture of what happened to Shourd, Bauer and Fattal by providing personal stories of their detention in Iran.
“People don’t always get the right information or the full picture. It’s clear and comprehensive and it really helps people understand what happened to us,” Shourd said. “They can see where we were when we were arrested. They can hear it through my words and his documentary crew does a really good job of showing the toll this tragedy has taken on our families and us.”
Production of the film was put on hold when it appeared Shourd would be released. After her release, Shourd began to help with the documentary within a month.
Andrew Johnson, a freshman majoring in theatre, said he is eager to heard Shourd’s personal insight about the situation in Iran.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring this conflict to USC,” Johnson said. “And I think that being able to speak with someone who has lived through the episode in question offers a much more substantial learning experience for students.”
Shourd along with her mother Nora, Fattal’s brother Alex, Kaufman, Garry and Philip Seib, the director of the Center of Public Diplomacy at Annenberg, will be part of the panel, which will look at the current situation facing Bauer and Fattal, the toll this experience has taken on the hikers and their families and the injustice surrounding their detention.
“It will help to explain more of their personal stories and help us understand what happened,” Garry said.
Kaufman began production last summer and wanted to give his audiences a bigger picture of Iran to understand the situations the hikers faced.
“We were also able to connect to wonderful people around the world with phenomenal photographs that brought us really close to the landscape where they were imprisoned,” Kaufman said. “It was a fascinating and often touching international connection.”
“The most important message is that our arrest has been a misunderstanding and that we don’t feel any anger to Iranian leaders and their people,” Shourd said. “We hope they find it in their hearts to show the same compassion for Shane and Josh as they did for me.”