Aiming for the Stars

IDFA FORUM 2011. Is it possible for an Iranian girl to become an astronaut? In "Break of Dawn", Berit Madsen follows 16-year-old Sepideh's struggle to break away from traditions in order to pursue her dreams.

It is not easy to make films in Iran these days, but director Berit Madsen has unique access. She is married to an Iranian, which makes her an Iranian citizen, and she also understands a good bit of Farsi. In "Break of Dawn", Madsen tells the story of 16-year-old Sepideh who wants to become an astronaut.

But that is easier said than done for the young girl who is tied by family traditions and cultural codes according to which nightly stargazing is far from being considered an appropriate occupation for a young girl. Sepideh's mother is concerned that the desert excursions may shame the family, and Sepideh's uncle, head of the family, opposes her insistence on spending the nights under the open sky. But Sepideh has promised her dead father to follow her dream. 

With "Break of Dawn", Berit Madsen wants to tell a universal story of a young girl at the crossroads between childhood and adulthood. At the same time, Madsen sees much more in Sepideh than just another teenager. Her stargazing represents the conflicts between the Iranian traditions and young Iranians' desire to determine their own lifestyles, and Sepideh's story shows proof that it takes enormous courage to confront a conservative society.

The production is managed by Stefan Frost and Henrik Underbjerg who had their long documentary How Are You, about artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, selected for a host of festivals.