Coronavirus Updates: USC  |  SCA


February 3, 2012, 7:00 P.M.

Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall

Education Under Fire, Office of Religious Life, School of Cinematic Arts,
Center for Public Diplomacy, Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, Interfaith Council, International Human Rights Clinic, Academic Culture Assembly, Baha'i Student Association and the Los Angeles Baha'i Center
Invite you and a guest to a special discussion and screening of

                           Education Under Fire

Directed & Produced by Jeff Kaufman
Executive Produced by SCA Alumnus David Hoffman

Following the screening, actor-comedian Rainn Wilson and activist Reza Aslan join director Jeff Kaufman, USC alumnus and executive producer David Hoffman and Shabnam Koirala-Azad for a panel discussion, moderated by USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni.
7:00 P.M. on Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall


About Education Under Fire

Education Under Fire is produced by Single Arrow Productions and co-sponsored by Amnesty International. The 30-minute documentary profiles the growth, struggle, and inspiring spirit of the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education. Baha'is in Iran have been subjected to systematic persecution, including arrests, torture, and execution simply for refusing to recant their beliefs. They are also prohibited from going to college (and blocked from many professions).

In 1987, the semi-underground Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was formed to give young Baha'is their only chance for a university-level education. Despite repeated raids and arrests, volunteer teachers and administrators created an independent, decentralized university system that has lifted the lives of thousands of Baha'i students across Iran. In May, 2011, an organized assault was launched by the Iranian government in an attempt to shut down the BIHE. Over 30 homes were raided and over a dozen BIHE professors and administrators were detained. Several are still in prison for doing nothing more than trying to teach. The film connects a diverse audience to a grave human rights issue, a powerful story of resilience against oppression, and the need to respect human rights everywhere.

We filmed in nine cities with a dozen BIHE students or teachers, plus: Bani Dugal (Representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations), Elise Auerbach (Iran Specialist for Amnesty International), Hadi Ghaemi (with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran), Hamid Dabashi (Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University), and Dr. Ramin Ahmadi (Co-founder of Iran Human Rights Documentation Center). The film features footage and photos spanning two decades of BIHE classes, rare video from inside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, and photos and a film that bring alive a series of personal stories.

In the documentary, BIHE graduate Shahrzad Missaghi expresses a shared resolve, "The government can crush our bodies, but they cannot crush the mind and soul." Mojdeh Rohani, a BIHE graduate whose father was executed in 1981, says, "We can use this experience to not only just think about ourselves and what is important to us, but to look at the bigger picture; to think of people of this world as they were our own family." That is the larger, universal message of this film. Education Under Fire will inform and move a diverse audience around the world.

Provided courtesy of Single Arrow Productions. Not rated. Running time: 30 minutes.

To learn more about the film and to view the trailer, click here.

About the Panelists

DR. REZA ASLAN (Founder/Scholar,

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world. Reza Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Abraham's Vision, an educational, conflict transformation organization for Israeli and Palestinian youths; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan's first book is the International Bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Reza Aslan is Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East and President of AppOvation Labs, a mobile applications company. Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife (author and entrepreneur Jessica Jackley) where he is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

DAVID HOFFMAN (Founder, "Education Under Fire" / Executive Producer)

David Hoffman is a Myrtle Beach oceanfront developer and marketer who made a significant mark in driving new and innovative development all along the Myrtle Beach coastline. He is also a USC Cinema alumnus who production-managed the student film, America Lost, in 1976 working with future Academy Award Winner Robert Elswitt (There Shall Be Blood) who served as the film’s director of photography. That student film was immortalized in the documentary, The 480 Experience. Hoffman is also executive producer of Savoy King, a feature documentary written and directed by Jeff Kaufman about Swing-era drummer-bandleader Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, and Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom.

A member of the Baha’i Faith and married to an Iranian for nearly thirty years, Hoffman has long been concerned with the systematic attack of the Iranian government on Baha’is. In January 2011, he formed Single Arrow Productions and began documenting on film individual accounts of human rights abuses in Iran, producing a series of short documentaries entitled Angels of Iran, featuring Baha’is, Kurds, student activists and others who are targets of the Iranian regime. In response to the May 2011 attack on the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), Hoffman quickly assembled resources to launch a new campaign and documentary under the same name entitled Education Under Fire.

JEFF KAUFMAN (Producer, Director)

Producer/Director Jeff Kaufman has produced ten short films for Amnesty International, including one that launched a human rights youth mentoring fellowship with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He also donated his services to make a film for the families of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two young Americans who have been unjustly imprisoned in Iran since July 2009.

He recently finished the feature documentary The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America. It features the voices of Bill Cosby, Janet Jackson, John Legend, Andy Garcia, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Tyne Daly, Ron Perlman, and Billy Crystal, among others. Earlier efforts include several Discovery Channel programs, a documentary on behalf of Iranian-American political prisoner Haleh Esfandiari, a behind-the-scenes history of the series COPS, and the feature documentary, Brush With Life.

SHABNAM KOIRALA-AZAD (Assistant professor of Human Rights at USF and teacher at the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education)

Shabnam Koirala-Azad has been teaching at the University of San Francisco for the past six years in the International and Multicultural Education program in the Graduate School of Education. In 2008, she co-founded a concentration in Human Rights Education, the first such graduate program in education in the country to focus on human rights pedagogy. She received both her Masters and Doctorate degrees from UC-Berkeley in Social and Cultural Studies in Education with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Education from Mount Holyoke College. Her primary emphases in teaching are immigration and forced displacement, participatory critical pedagogy research, international perspectives on area studies, and gender and globalization.

In the past few years, Shabnam has collaborated with professors in Iran to teach two courses on Participatory Research while also serving as an advisor for student projects. She meets with students online once a week or as needed through Skype to conduct classes. This work inspires her immensely as she works with students who defy all barriers to create truly transformative research projects and with faculty who endure imprisonment and threats in the process of educating youth.

VARUN SONI (Moderator)

Varun Soni is the dean of religious life at the University of Southern California (USC). He is also a University Fellow at USC Annenberg's Center on Public Diplomacy and a member of the State Bar of California, the American Academy of Religion, and the Association for College and University Religious Affairs. He serves on the advisory board for the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, the Music Preservation Project, the Journal for Interreligious Dialogue, CrossCurrents, the Guibord Center, and the Parliament of the World's Religions. Prior to joining USC, he spent four years teaching in the Law and Society Program at UCSB. He also produced and hosted his own radio show on Pacifica (KPFK) showcasing music from South Asia and its diaspora. He holds degrees in religion from Tufts University, Harvard Divinity School, UCSB, and the University of Cape Town, as well as a law degree from UCLA School of Law.

Visit the USC Office of Religious Life website:

RAINN WILSON (Actor/Comedian)

Rainn Wilson can currently be seen on NBC in the eigth season of the Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award winning series for “Best Comedy,” The Office, alongside John Krasinski, and Jenna Fisher. Over the years, he has endeared himself to millions and earned two Emmy nominations with his portrayal of ‘Dwight Schrute,’ an eccentric paper salesman whose ego knows no bounds, dreams of being “#2,” and fervently torments his colleagues in his own lovable, pathetic fashion.

Wilson turned in a humorous cameo in the summer blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Working through his short summer hiatus from The Office, Wilson completed production on three independent features for 2011: Peep World with Michael C. Hall and Sarah Silverman which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was purchased by IFC Films; Hesher with Natalie Portman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt; and Super (which he also co-executive produced) directed by James Gunn alongside Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, and Kevin Bacon which IFC Films also purchased. Wilson was also heard as the voice of the lone alien, ‘Gallaxhar,’ trying to take over the planet in the Dreamworks’ 2009 animated feature Monsters vs. Aliens. In the summer of 2008, he starred in The Rocker for 20th Century Fox.

Prior to his fame from The Office, Wilson was best known for his role as ‘Arthur Martin,’ the pitiable mortician’s apprentice on the HBO’s Emmy Award winning television series Six Feet Under. Previous film credits include The Last Mimzy, Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Sahara, Mario Van Peebles’ Baadasssss, Steven Soderbergh’s Full Frontal, Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, America's Sweethearts, House of 1,000 Corpses and Galaxy Quest. Wilson has also guest-starred on CSI, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Dark Angel, Monk, and co-starred in the TV movie When Billy Beat Bobby. Wilson also received his first Writers Guild Award for his turn as host of the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards.

Wilson honed his theatre skills on the stage in New York for years before making the trip to Los Angeles to pursue on-screen work. His credits include performances in two Broadway plays, “London Assurance” and “The Tempest,” as well as off-Broadway productions of “The New Bozena” (a piece he created), “Plunge,” “Venus,” “Titus Andronicus,” and “Twelfth Night.” He attended the graduate acting program at New York University. Wilson currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, fiction writer Holiday Reinhorn, their young son Walter, and their two pit bulls, Oona, and Pilot.

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $8.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in outdoor Lot M or V, or Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago