Images courtesy of Cory Bilicko. Mojgan Edalat-McClusky and camera operator Sebastian Echeverry during the shoot for the documentary.
Revolution, war and a turbulent childhood spurred Mojgan Edalat to find an escape route, through the pencils and paper that allowed the young Iranian to create a world of her own, where the changing cultural landscape of Iran couldn’t touch her.
Mojee, a documentary produced and directed by local artist Cory Bilicko, will be screened twice at the Expo Arts Center on the evening of Friday, July 1.
“Upon becoming friends with Mojee, I was struck by how honest she was in discussing her mom,” stated Bilicko. “Clearly, she had used her art to work through her childhood issues, and it was fascinating to see how she took those chaotic, bewildering experiences and refined them into very streamlined, clean paintings that tell her stories.”
Mojee, as her friends call her, found stability in the United States, where she was able to develop her artistic skills and create large-scale minimalist-contemporary pieces that confront her childhood, the responsibility of caring for her younger brother, the confusion of having a parent with a mental illness and an ongoing complicated mother-daughter relationship, according to the release.
“Because Mojee is so forthcoming and frank about her experiences, we’re able to delve deeply into issues of mental illness, cultural identity, guilt and the ultimate salvation that can be found in creating art,” Bilicko stated.
Now married and a resident of downtown Long Beach, Mojgan Edalat-McClusky works out of a studio on the first floor of the Walker Building.
“I thought Mojee’s ability to be so open with us about her past was very inspiring,” stated Director of Photography and Long Beach native, Adam Buchsbaum. “It takes a lot of bravery to be that candid about the difficult things in our past.”
Long Beach local Martin Beal, a producer, recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist, has had a lucrative past three decades having worked with several of the biggest names in pop music, including Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. Beal composed and recorded the documentary score, working with Bilicko to create five original songs that describe Edalat-McClusky’s loneliness and identity, in addition to the redemption and fulfillment that followed, acquired through her art practice.
“I was provided raw interview footage from which I was inspired to create the film’s score,” Beal said in statement. “In particular, I was moved by Mojee’s strength, introspection and her ability to transform the pain of her past into the beautiful art she now creates.”
Bilicko believes that Mojee might inspire its viewers to overcome their own “artistic roadblocks,” despite the obstacles they face in their personal lives. He sees the documentary and Mojee’s story as a catalyst to creation.
“It is my hope that folks of various ages will be inspired by Mojee’s courage in confronting her past and her determination, not only to find her way in a completely different country, but to discover her self-worth enough to bring wonderful paintings into the world,” Bilicko stated. “It’s a true testament to the power of art.”
The first screening will take place at 6:30PM and the second at 8:00PM, each followed by a Q&A with Bilicko, Edalat-McClusky, Buchsbaum and Beal. The project was made possible in part thanks to a microgrant from the Arts Council for Long Beach.
For more information about Mojee, visit the Facebook event page here.
The Expo Arts Center is located at 4321 Atlantic Avenue.