The FBI Blew Up My Ice Skates (2016) is a short animated film co-directed by Sara Zia Ebrahimi and Lindsey Martin with an original score by Joel Roston. Based on a true story, the film tells a story from the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1980 from the perspective of Haleh, an eight year old who just wants to enjoy her ice skates. The film raises questions about the human cost of surveillance and the criminalization of immigrant communities, linking past policy decisions with current national discussions around security and xenophobia.
“Humanism is the only - I would go so far as saying the final- resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.”
-Edward Said, Orientalism
Set in the winter of 1980 during the Iran Hostage Crisis, The FBI Blew Up My Ice Skates tells the story of Haleh, an eight year old girl whose purchase of a pair of ice skates from a Sears catalog becomes subject to international politics. This 5 minute animated film uses humor to humanize a story from the Iran Hostage Crisis, fictionalizing the real life events that occurred to an Iranian American family under heavy surveillance.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis (1979-1981) marked a significant shift in Western views toward Middle Easterners from one of an antiquated, exotic Other to one of irrationality and violent fundamentalism. The actions of a few extremists were compounded to represent the beliefs and desires of millions of people worldwide. The rise of Ayatollah Khomeini to power and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran was told as a story of unified extremism, rather than an unfortunate outcome of several splintered social movements and years of community organizing that had been taking place.
The shift in perception has led to increased levels of fear, resulting in increased surveillance domestically and increased militarization abroad. In a climate of fear, there are increasingly less opportunities to consider diplomatic solutions. The “enemy” becomes an inhuman other and with that dehumanization comes the absence of stories of individuals, a lack of representation of the wide spectrum of beliefs, and the punishment of the many for the actions of a few.
The effects can be found in the foreign policy decisions which have resulted in thousands of people on both sides paying the price of their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq while the U.S. government tries to bomb people into submission. There are strong echoes in the recent backlash against welcoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the U.S..
The film was made using a technique called cut out animation. Original animations using this process were cut from paper sources such as newspapers, magazines, and advertisements and photographed frame by frame. Although the process has been digitized, the method is still the same. What makes this technique significant, is the way the it maintains tension between old and new. By using images from the late 70’s and early 80’s for the backgrounds, and applying those to a personal story of profiling, surveillance, and cultural identity, we are forced to reconcile with conflicts happening during the Iran Hostage crisis, and now.
The role of artists in social change movements is to raise questions about how we exist together by offering a different way to look at our day to day. This film is an attempt to raise questions about the unfortunate, and in this case absurd, effects that a climate of fear can create.
-Sara Zia Ebrahimi and Lindsey Martin, co-directors