As part of this year’s edition of La Biennale de Montréal, BNLMTL 2014, L’avenir (looking forward), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is pleased to present the North American premiere of Illusions & Mirrors, the latest film by well-known Iranian-born American artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat. Shot in 2013, it stars the Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. Known around the world for her video installations – Rapture won over audiences at the 1999 Venice Biennale and earned her the Lion d’or – Shirin Neshat made her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, in 2009. It tells the story of four women living in Tehran under the regime imposed by the British and the Americans following the coup d’état of August 19, 1953. The linked issues of the status and representation of women in Muslim countries have always been at the heart of the artist’s concerns.

With her recent thirteen-minute short film Illusions & Mirrors, Neshat turns away from these issues to explore the world of dreams. A young woman wandering on a beach in search of a ghostly presence makes a staggering discovery. “This film,” explained the director, “pays tribute to the black-and-white silent films made by Surrealist filmmakers such as Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, Luis Buñuel and, later, the wonderful experimental filmmaker Maya Deren. Thematically, it is a big departure for me, as it moves away from all my past socio-political subjects regarding Iran and Islam and enters a very timeless and universal story.”

Stéphane Aquin, Curator of Contemporary Art at the MMFA, added: “Illusions & Mirrors, with singularly beautiful images mirrored in Natalie Portman’s sensitive and thoughtful performance and the dreamlike music by Johnny Azari, not only confirms the maturity of Shirin Neshat’s artistic vision, but also opens a new horizon for her oeuvre.”

Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director and Chief Curator said, “The MMFA is delighted to co-partner with La Biennale de Montréal for BNLMTL 2014, a long awaited second edition. This partnership also continues the Museum’s collaboration with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the co-producer of BNLMTL 2014. It is a privilege to present the North American premiere of the oeuvre of Shirin Neshat, an artist we greatly admire.”

Illusions & Mirrors was screened for the first time at the exhibition Miss Dior at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 2013. Women Without Men was presented at the MMFA in June 2010.

The MMFA thanks the RBC Foundation for its support of our contemporary art programme.

All images: Shirin Neshat (born in 1957), production still for Illusions & Mirrors, 2013, video. © Shirin Neshat; realized with the support of Dior; courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels