Sepideh - Reaching for the Stars

90 mins.
Directed by Berit Madsen

Science on Screen Film Series: Compelling films paired with lively talks by experts in science, technology and medicine.

With Dr. Salman Hameed, Hampshire College, astronomer and Director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies.

Sky gazing outside the cinema follows the screening, weather permitting.

Sepideh wants to become an astronaut.

She spends her nights exploring the secrets of the universe, while her family will do anything to keep her on the ground.

The expectations for a young Iranian woman are very different from Sepideh’s ambitions, and her plans to go to university are in danger.

But Sepideh holds on to her dream. She takes up the fight and teams up with the world's first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari.

TOPIC: SEPIDEH - REACHING FOR THE STARS follows an Iranian teenage girl, named Sepideh Hooshyar, living in a small town 400 miles south of Tehran. She is obsessed with astronomy and becomes an active member of a local astronomy club led by her physics teacher. But her real passion is to become an astronaut, following in the footsteps of her idol, Persian-American astronaut, Anousheh Ansari. The documentary provides a unique and complex look into Iranian society, gender expectations, and our shared passion for understanding the universe. This film provides a welcome respite from the prevalent political rhetoric about Iran in the news and gives us a slice of Iranian life in a small town.

BONUS: After the screening, there will be telescopes set up outside the cinema for stargazing (weather permitting - this is New England, after all!).

SPEAKER: Salman Hameed is the director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies (SSiMS). He is Charles Taylor Chair and associate professor of integrated science & humanities at Hampshire College, Massachusetts. His primary research interest focuses on understanding the reception of science in the Muslim world and how Muslims view the relationship between science & religion.

He recently led a 4-year National Science Foundation funded study on the reception of biological evolution in diverse Muslim societies. He is also leading a study to understand and analyze the discourse and participants in online Islam and Science videos. He teaches “Evolution, Islam, and Modernity”, “Science in the Muslim World”, "Creating science fiction short films using real science" (with Dr. Jason Tor), and “Science & Religion: Biological evolution in the public sphere” at Hampshire College.

Dr. Hameed also runs Irtiqa (, a science & religion blog with an emphasis on scientific debates taking place in the Muslim world, hosts an online astronomy video series in Urdu, Science ka Adda (, and has a regular astronomy segment for the Bill Newman show on WHMP and for Monte Belmonte on WRSI 93.9.

Each film is a jumping off point for discussion by a compelling speaker, offering opportunities to explore and think about science in new ways.  The perfect combination of entertainment and enlightenment!